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Thursday, 31 December 2015

John Lennon

EARLY LIFE

John Winston Lennon was born at Liverpool Maternity Hospital on October 9, 1940. The "Winston" came from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill - John would later add "Ono" to his middle name in honor of Yoko.

Photo by Roy Kerwood. Wikipedia Commons

He was brought up by his Aunt Mimi at 251 Menlove Avenue, Woolton, South Liverpool. John lived there with her and her husband George Smith, until mid-1963 when he was 22 years old.

Through visits with his mother, Julia, John learned to play the banjo and she gave him his first guitar in 1956.

251 Menlove Avenue, where Lennon lived for most of his childhood. By Havaska -  Wikipedia

Mimi Smith famously told him: "Music’s all very well, John, but you’ll never make a living from it."

Lennon did poorly in school and got into college through the persuasion of his aunt and headmaster. He was thrown out his final year.

MUSIC CAREER 

A bus driver gifted Lennon with one of his early musical instruments, giving him a harmonica that Lennon went on to play extensively during early performances and initial recordings with the Beatles.

16-year-old John Lennon met 15-year-old Paul McCartney at a St Peter's Parish Church party in Woolton, Liverpool. Lennon's group The Quarrymen were performing at the do. Impressed by McCartney's ability to tune a guitar and by his knowledge of song lyrics, Lennon asked him to join his band as lead guitarist.

In the late 1950s The Quarrymen was renamed the Silver Beatles (a wordplay on the musical term beat that also paid tribute to rocker Buddy Holly's Crickets) before being shortened to The Beatles.


The Fab Four inspired a worldwide frenzy of Beatlemania, perhaps primarily because they projected the self-image of the 1960s teenager. By the time they led the British invasion of the United States in 1964, the Beatles held the top five spots on the singles recording charts.

John Lennon's book, In His Own Write, was published on March 23, 1964.  It was the first solo effort by one of the Beatles. Lennon weaved whimsical line drawings and sharp satire into a collection of 31 poems and short stories. The book was an immediate hit, quickly selling out its first printing of more than 100,000 copies.

Wikipedia Commons

John Lennon disliked his own voice and once asked Beatles producer George Martin to "smother it with tomato ketchup or something."

His best known song after the break-up of The Beatles is "Imagine." Lennon said the song is "virtually the Communist Manifesto," before adding, "even though I am not particularly a communist and I do not belong to any movement."

PERSONAL LIFE

John Lennon's first girlfriend  when he was at art college was named Thelma Pickles.

John Lennon married Yoko Ono on March 20, 1969 at the British-owned Rock of Gibraltar in Spain. The Beatles song "The Ballad of John and Yoko" describes their ordeal finding a location for the nuptials.


They originally attempted to marry in Paris, but were caught "standing in the dock at Southampton. Trying to get to Holland or France," as later documented in "The Ballad Of John And Yoko." Passport problems keep them from boarding.


During their honeymoon, John Lennon and Yoko Ono hold their first Bed-In for Peace at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel between March 25 - 31 1969.


John Lennon returned his MBE to Buckingham Palace on November 25, 1969, partly in protest at Britain’s involvement in the Biafran war in Nigeria.

In 1966, on the set of How I Won The War, Lennon was issued a pair of National Health spectacles. Lennon's round, wire-rimmed glasses became part of his iconic public image. He was legally blind without his specs.

John Lennon took delivery of his Rolls-Royce - hand-painted in bright, psychedelic colors - on May 25, 1967.

John Lennon's Rolls-Royce rear, Royal BC Museum, Victoria.

Lennon received his driver’s license at 24-years-old. The Beatle officially gave up driving when he wound up with 17 stitches after totaling his car in 1969.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono mutually agree to a trial separation on February 4, 1974, which effectively kicked off the former Beatle's notorious eighteen-month "lost weekend." During this time, Lennon would consume lots of drugs and alcohol and -- at Yoko's request -- take up with Ono associate May Pang.

Bed-In for Peace, Amsterdam 1969 - John Lennon & Yoko Ono

At an Auburn, Indiana, auction, Las Vegas surgeon Dr. Lonnie Hammargren paid $325,000 for the psychedelic 1956 Bentley limousine once owned by John Lennon.

John Lennon was the only Beatle who didn't become a full-time vegetarian.

DEATH


John Lennon was shot aged 40 outside his New York apartment by the deranged fan Mark Chapman on December 8, 1980. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the Roosevelt Hospital. Chapman pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years-to-life in jail.

Yoko One refused to hold a funeral for Lennon, as she felt "his spirit would live forever." Instead, she asked people everywhere to observe ten minutes of silence and prayer for him on December 14, 1980, at 2:00 PM. At that time, the music playing in Central Park stopped, and people all over the world fell silent for ten minutes.

The last picture taken of John Lennon while he was alive had his killer in the frame. Photographer Paul Goresh took a snap of Lennon signing Mark Chapman's album.

Lennon signing a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman Wikipedia

The actress Lauren Bacall was staying in the same New York apartment building as John Lennon when he was shot. Bacall later recalled she had heard the gunshot but assumed that it was a car tire bursting or a vehicle backfiring.

On October 9, 1990, on what would have been Lennon's fiftieth birthday, "Imagine" was simulcast on radio and television stations all over the world, as people remembered Lennon and his music.

Sources Nydailynews.com, Artistfacts

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Vladimir Lenin

EARLY LIFE 

Vladimir "Volodya" Ilych Ulyanov was born on April 22, 1870 in the Russian city of Simbirsk (renamed Ulyanovsk in 1924) on the Volga. He adopted the name of Lenin in December 1901 to hide his identity from the police, possibly taking the River Lena as a basis.

Vladimir was the son of Ilya Nikolaevich Ulyanov (1831 - 1886), who held a responsible position in the education service, When Vladimir was four his father was promoted to be director of schools.  He worked for increased democracy and free universal education in Russia.

His liberal mother, Maria Alexandrovna Blank (1835 – 1916), was a doctor's daughter of respectable land-owning stock, a pure Russian of Mongol origin.

Like many Russians, Vladimir was of mixed ethnic and religious ancestry. He had Kalmyk ancestry through his paternal grandparents, Volga German ancestry through his maternal grandmother, who was a Lutheran, and Jewish ancestry through his maternal grandfather, who had converted to Christianity.

Vladimir was brought up in a middle class environment, his family employed a cook and a nanny. The whole family were passionate about croquet.

As a toddler, little Vladimir kept falling over and banging his head on the floor. His family thought it was because he was too top heavy with a large head and short legs.

Vladimir aged four

Ilya Ulyanov died of a brain hemorrhage in January 1886, when Vladimir was 16. The grieved Vladimir's behaviour became erratic and confrontational, and shortly thereafter he renounced his belief in God.

Lenin's elder brother Aleksandr was hanged in 1887 for taking part in a plot to assassinate Tsar Alexander III. None of the family had any idea that scholarly, apparently unworldly Alexander was a member of The People’s Will, a radical terrorist group.

This radicalized Vladimir and put him and the rest of family under constant suspicion from the Tsarist police.

Vladimir distinguished himself in the study of Latin and Greek. In his final year at Simbirsk High School, he came first in the final exams and won a gold medal.

He enrolled in University of Kazan to study law but was arrested, and thrown out for participating in student protests.

Vladimir was unable to get into any other university but continued to study independently. Eventually, in 1890 St Petersburg accepted him to read law as an external student. He graduated the next year, obtaining the equivalent of a first-class degree with honors, earning a license to practice law.

EARLY CAREER

On qualifying from St Petersburg University Lenin was employed as a legal assistant for a regional court, before gaining a job with a local lawyer. His work focused primarily on disputes between peasants and artisans.

In autumn 1893, Lenin moved to Saint Petersburg, where he worked as a barrister's assistant and rose to a senior position in a Marxist revolutionary cell calling themselves the "Social Democrats" after the Marxist Social Democratic Party of Germany.

Having been influenced by the writings of Karl Marx, Lenin abandoned all thoughts of making law his life time career and committed himself to the working class struggle.

REVOLUTIONARY ACTIVITY 

Lenin first learned about the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels  when he was a law student.

During the early 1890s, Lenin and his fellow comrades met together for "Pancake Teas" which were in reality socialist discussion groups. "You need to break a few eggs to make an omelette" Lenin later said.

By autumn 1894 Lenin was leading a Marxist workers' circle in St Petersburg. He had to be meticulous in covering his tracks, knowing that police spies were trying to infiltrate the revolutionary movement.

Between 1895 and 1900 Lenin spent a year in prison and four years in Shushenskoya, Siberia, charged with sedition.

On his return from exile Lenin began publishing Iskra (The Spark), a Marxist newspaper from Munich. Containing contributions from prominent European Marxists Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Kautsky, and Leon Trotsky, Iskra was smuggled into Russia illegally, becoming the country's most successful underground publication for half a century.

The first issue of Iskra
Between 1902-03 Lenin stayed for a year at 30 Holford Square, London in order to evade the Bavarian police.. He spent most of his time studying in the  nearby British Museum.

While in London, Lenin fell ill with erysipelas and was unable to take such a leading role on the Iskra editorial board; in his absence the board moved its base of operations to Switzerland.

In 1903 Lenin was again sentenced to exile to the frozen north. However a friendly doctor gave him the necessary poor health certificate that enabled him to live in the comparatively more comfortable south of Siberia.

Lenin was active in the 1905 Russian Revolution. When it failed, he was forced to leave Russia.

When World War 1 broke out, Lenin was captured in Krakow, Galicia (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and imprisoned. He might have been shot as a Russian spy by the Austrians if the Socialist mayor of Vienna, hadn’t believed the Bolshevik was a greater danger to the Russians than he was to the Austrians.

After being released, Lenin relocated to Switzerland. In February 1916 he moved into a crowded house at Spiegelgasse, Zurich. A nearby sausage factory emitted such an unpleasant whiff that Lenin retreated to the Central Library as often as possible.

When there was a renewed outbreak of revolution in 1917, which had evolved from a strike of metal workers Lenin was still in Switzerland. A passer-by informed him about the Tsar's abdication, so Lenin and a group of his followers returned to Russia in a train provided by the Germans to take the reins of the Russian Revolution.. They were greeted at St Petersburg station on April 16, 1917 by a great reception.


On the night of October 24, 1917, Lenin, disguised with a wig, rode with a friend in an empty streetcar to where the Bolshevik rebels were gathered. He persuaded them to attack the ministers in the Winter Palace. This kicked off the Bolshevik Red Guards takeover of buildings in Russia, among the first events associated with the October Revolution.

On his way to the Winter Palace, Lenin had been stopped by a government patrol, who mistook him for a harmless drunk.

The Bolsheviks, led by Lenin and Trotsky overthrew the provisional government and announced that Russia was a socialist country. On November 8, 1917, Lenin was chosen as President of Russia, the world's first communist leader.

PRESIDENCY 

A hard worker as President, Lenin worked night and day until his health slowed him down

Not a fiery speaker, Lenin spoke to his comrades as if they were family. He had a speech impediment which led a comical sound to his consonants.

Lenin appointed the first ever female Minister of State in the world, an Alexandria Kollantay, who became the Commissar of Social Welfare in 1917.

Lenin owned a luxurious Rolls Royce with skis and half-tracks for travel on Russian snow. The Communist President instructed his chauffeur while driving along country lanes to drive faster. His chauffeur remonstrated that he didn’t want to kill any stray chickens. Lenin lost his temper complaining that the chauffeur had a “unnecessary reverence” for roadside chickens.

Lenin was greatly affected by the state execution of his brother, Alexander. As a result he opposed execution as a political weapon, instead he eliminated opponents by administrative murder.

Lenin's communist regime starved to death hundreds of thousands of peasant children by cynically taking away their seed grain. Also hundreds of thousands of his potential enemies died in the concentration camps that he set up in frozen north Russia. Lenin believed that human rights shouldn't get in the way of the progress of the working class and between 1917-21, ten million were murdered during his reign of terror.

The Orthodox Easter coincided with the socialist May Day festival. Ten times as many Muscovites celebrated Easter rather than the socialist day. The lesson was not lost on Lenin and his fellow atheistic Bolsheviks.

Between 1921 and 1923 more than 8,000 monks, nuns and priests "disappeared". Many icons were destroyed and churches were turned into grain stores or cowsheds or simply blown up. By the fifth anniversary of the Russian Revolution the Communist party under the leadership of Lenin had a total grip of the country.

BELIEFS 

His modification of traditional Marxist doctrine to fit conditions prevailing in Russia became known as Marxism-Leninism, the basis of Communist ideology.

The first words he wrote under the pseudonym Lenin were: "The Party isn’t a ladies’ finishing school. Revolution is a messy business."

Lenin believed the way to a Russians heart was through their stomach. The Bolsheviks had an influential slogan "bread, peace, land.". Lenin himself said "no amount of political freedom will satisfy the hungry masses."

A militant anti smoker. on his triumphant return from exile Lenin forced his comrades to smoke in the toilet.

Lenin saw the propaganda advantages of the cinema after the 1917 revolution. He said “the art of film is for us the most important of all arts.”

LITERATURE 

Lenin used to say his favorite recreation was reading at London's British Museum and he wished he could always live near it.

Lenin said of a Chekov story: "When I had read the story to the end, I was filled with awe. I could not remain in my room and went out of doors. I felt as if I was locked up in a ward too."

During his banishment in Siberia, Lenin wrote The Development of Capitalism in Russia. Also, during this time, he translated from Russian to English, with his wife The History of Trade Unionism. At that time Lenin could not speak a word of English.

In 1902 Lenin published the political pamphlet What Is to Be Done? (subtitled Burning Questions of Our Movement), his most influential publication to date. In this work, Lenin called for unity amongst the various revolutionary factions. He maintained that a disciplined party of professional delegates must lead the revolution. The Bolsheviks at the 1903 Democratic Congress accepted this.

In September 1917, Lenin published Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, in which he attacked those socialists who supported World War 1, as he viewed it as a purely "imperialist" struggle.

Lenin wrote his testament, or rather dictated it in his last month. In it he rubbished his successors such as Trotsky and Stalin. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't published until after Stalin's death.

PERSONAL LIFE 

Lenin was a short, stocky figure with a balding head, snub nose, rather Mongolian-like face, oval shaped spectacles and a small pointy red beard.


Lenin didn’t always have a beard, during October 1917 he was clean shaven.

Lenin had a poor dress sense, and frequently his trousers were too long.

He met his wife, a fellow Bolshevik activist, Nadezhda Konstantinova Krupskaya (1869-1939) in the early days of communist meetings. They married while exiled in Siberia in July 1898.

According to some reports, Nadezhda was a tiresome, hypocritical woman, Stalin was particularly impolite to her.

When the glamorous, blonde, curly-haired Bolshevik Inessa Armand left Russia and settled in Paris in 1911, she met Vladimir Lenin and other Bolsheviks living in exile. She became Lenin's mistress.

Lenin had few friends apart from his wife Nadya and his mistress Inessa – who also became close friends with each other.

During his banishment in Siberia, Lenin enjoyed skating during the winter frosts, playing chess (which he continued to play after he'd finished his exile) and gardening.

Lenin admitted, "I can't listen to music too often. It makes me want to say kind, stupid things and pat the heads of people. But now you have to beat them on the head, beat them without mercy."

Lenin owned nine Rolls Royces including the world's only one to be adapted with skis at the front for snow-driving.

In his final years, Lenin had a country home at Gorki, near Moscow.

HEALTH 

At the turn of the century the 30 year-old Lenin had a brain ailment and he knew from then he would die young.

For many years Lenin suffered from syphilis whose symptoms includes wild mood swings and it is claimed this may have contributed to his creation of the brutal Red Terror.

Another contributory factor to Lenin's poor health were the several assassination attempts he experienced including one on August 30, 1918 when he was shot and wounded by Dora Kaplan, a young girl from the intellectual class. The shooting took place as he was leaving a Moscow factory. The first shot penetrated Lenin's chest causing hemorrhaging in his chest, the second entered his back causing internal hemorrhaging in the stomach. The Russian leader was also shot and wounded in the spine and head in 1921.

Vladimir Pchelin's depiction of the assassination attempt

DECLINE, DEATH AND LEGACY 

Lenin's injuries caused his health to decline to such an extent that last year his arteries started playing up and he had a stroke which took away his powerful intellect and for a time his power of speech. He took a few months of rest, but by 1923 he was suffering from violent headaches on the right side of his head. He was also paralyzed down his right side and restricted to his Gorky home where 40 doctors, nurses and servants attended him.

Lenin died at 18.50 hrs, Moscow time, on January 21, 1924, aged 53, at his estate at Gorki estate of a brain hemorrhage. Most historians agree that the most likely cause of his death was a stroke induced by the bullet still lodged in his neck from the assassination attempt.

Lenin was originally buried in his buttoned up Khaki jacket. Underneath was a rubber wet suit under, which was a solution that kept him from falling apart.

In 1933 a permanent Mausoleum was built in Red Square to contain his body encased in glass.


By the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the embalmed former Russian leader was wearing a blue acrylic tailored three-piece.

Lenin spent only two years in St Petersburg and moved his capital from there to Moscow yet they renamed it Leningrad after him.

Many Russian parents called their children Ninel (Lenin backwards)

Source The Giant book of Facts & Trivia by Isaac Asimov

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Lemonade

The Mongolians invented lemonade around 1299 A.D. It swiftly became the Mongol emperor's favorite drink.

Wu Lai who lived during the 1271-1368 Yuan dynasty wrote a ditty entitled "Lemon Hot Water Song' (i.e. a song in praise of hot lemonade).

Lemonade became popular in Paris in 1630 when the price of sugar fell. Soon mixtures of water and lemon juice sweetened with honey were being peddled to thirsty Parisians. These first soft drink sellers carried large containers on their backs from which they sold cups of lemonade.

The Compagnie de Limonadier was formed in 1676 and given a monopoly for the sale of lemonade.


Rather than drinking wine, King George III of the United Kingdom preferred a lemonade called "cup."

President Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893) and his wife Lucretia did not drink alcoholic beverages. The First Lady instead served lemonade and other non-alcoholic drinks at the White House, earning herself the nickname "Lemonade Lucy."


An American, Hiram Cod, invented a gas-tight bottle that preserved the fizz in lemonade in 1875. Cod only manufactured non-alcoholic drinks, so because "wallop" was at the time a slang term for beer, the phrase “Cod’s wallop” started being used to describe drinks that do not contain alcohol.

A new type of alcoholic drink, known as Alcopops, was launched in Australia and the United Kingdom in 1996. The first two drinks to be sold were Two Dogs and Hoopers, both alcoholic lemonade drinks made in Australia and they achieved sales in Britain of over 100 million in less than a year after their launch.

The 'Lemonade' title of Beyonce's 2016 album was taken from a speech Jay Z's grandmother, Hattie White, at her 90th birthday party: "I've had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade."

People consume lemonade in the summer because drinks with sour flavors make us salivate, helping to alleviate a dry mouth.

There is more real lemon juice in Lemon Pledge furniture polish than in Country Time Lemonade.

Lemon

Lemons are thought to have first grown in Assam (a region in northeast India), northern Burma or China.

The very first uses for the lemon in the Mediterranean were as an ornamental plant in early Islamic gardens.

The habit of serving a slice of lemon with fish started in medieval western Europe. This was because it was believed that if a person accidentally swallowed a fish bone, the lemon juice would dissolve it.

The lemon was introduced to the Americas in 1493 when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola on his voyages.


The surgeon who discovered lemons could prevent scurvy, James Lind, had a last name that derived from the Old Norse for "lime tree."

The British Royal Navy started providing a daily ration of lime or lemon juice to all its men to protect them from scurvy in the late 1700s. As a result some Americans started nicknaming British sailors "limeys", as this was a current term used for both lemons and limes.

One pound of lemons contains more sugar than one pound of strawberries.

Lemon juice is 5-6% citric acid—much more than most fruit or vegetable juice—which is what gives lemons their distinct and tart taste.

As lemon juice is used to make invisible ink, a man once tried to rob a bank thinking he was invisible by putting lemon juice on his face.

One lemon tree will produce about 1,500 lemons a year.


Martha Stewart brings her own fresh lemons when she travels, "just in case they don't have them on the plane."

Lemons will repel spiders.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

Monday, 28 December 2015

Lego

Ole Christiansen (1891–1958), a carpenter from Billund, Denmark began building simple wooden toys in 1932 in his workshop after losing his job.

Two years later, Christiansen founded The Lego company. The Danish words Leg (play) and Godt (well) were put together to make its name. It was only discovered later that in Latin, the term "Lego" means "I put together" or "I assemble."

In 1947 Lego began making simple plastic toys as well as wooden ones and two years later, Lego began producing, among other new products, an early version of the now famous Lego interlocking bricks.


Ole Christiansen was strongly anti-war, reflecting his Christian upbringing and the effects of World War II. Not wanting to encourage warlike construction with his new toy, he made sure that brown and green bricks, which could be used to represent camouflaged military vehicles, were virtually absent from basic Lego sets.

The modern brick design was developed by Ole's son Godtfred Kirk Christiansen. At 1:58 p.m. on January 28, 1958, he filed a patent for the Lego plastic brick with its stud-and-hole design, which is still compatible with ones produced today.

The first of the chain of Lego-themed children's/family theme parks opened in Billund, Denmark on June 7, 1968. The park is located next to the original Lego factory. They are not fully owned by Lego Group itself; rather they are owned and operated by the British theme park company Merlin Entertainments.


Lego Star Wars was the first Lego licensed theme set. The first set was released in 1999 and was based on the original Star Wars trilogy. The lease was originally for ten years but it has been resigned multiple times, most recently in 2012 for a further ten years.

The container ship Tokio Express lost 4.8 million pieces of Lego due to a massive wave in 1997. Coincidently, most pieces have an oceanic theme and continue to wash ashore on beaches in South West England to this day.

THE LEGO MOVIE

The Lego Movie, based on the Lego line of construction toys opened in 2014. The film tells the story of Emmet (Pratt), an ordinary Lego mini figure prophesied to save the universe from the tyrannical Lord Business (Ferrell) as he gains different allies along the way.


Profits for the Lego company went up 15% after 'The Lego Movie' premiered.

Throughout the entire 'Lego Movie,' no one ever says the word "Lego."

One could recreate 'The LEGO Movie' using 15,080,330 total bricks and 183 different mini figures.

FUN FACTS

Today Lego has over 9,000 employees worldwide.

Lego is manufactured in Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary and Mexico. The plastic is heated until it is like dough before being injected into molds where it stays for five-ten seconds before being ejected.


Five thousandths of a millimeter is the tolerance of accuracy at the Lego mold factories.

The molds used are so accurate that only 18 elements in every million fail to meet the required standard.

The biggest manufacturer of tires in the world today is Lego.


On average, every person on the Earth owns 86 Lego pieces.

Lego men have those little holes in the top of their head to allow air to pass through should a child ever get one stuck in their throat.

Lego has developed a pair of super-padded slippers to combat the agony of unwittingly stepping on a Lego brick.

Lego heads were all "smileys" in 1980, but by the 1990s about 80% were smiling and by 2010 only 50% were smiling.

Lego bricks can be used 37,112 times before they lose their clutch power and won't stick to other pieces anymore.


Building an averaged size house (79 sq m) out of Lego would cost almost six times more than building it from real bricks.

Source The New Zealand Herald 

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Left-handedness

HUMANS

Around 1 in 10 of the world's population is left-handed, a percentage that has remained steady for the last 30,000 years.

For some strange reason less than 1% of China's population is left-handed.

There are more male left-handers than female.

If both parents of a child are left-handed, there is a 26% chance of that child being left-handed.

Babies who are born premature are usually left-handed.

Mothers over 40 are twice as likely to have left-handed children as women in their 20s.

Left-handedness is extremely common in twins. It is unusual, however, for both to be left-handed.

Left-handed people are right brain dominant which causes them to experience negative emotions like anger and fear more than right-handed people who are left brain dominant.


Throughout history, many people with IQs of over 140 have been left-handed people. Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin were all lefties.

Most left-handers draw figures facing to the right.

Left-handed people tend to scratch themselves with their right-hand. Vice-versa for righties.

Sports where lefties have a known advantage are boxing, fencing, judo and tennis.

Tennis star Rafael Nadal "became" a left-handed tennis player as a child when his uncle who coached him thought it would help give him an advantage on the court.

Since 1930, there have been fewer than 10 left-handed catchers in Major League Baseball.

Four of the last five US Presidents have been left-handed: Ronald Reagan, George Bush senior, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

OTHER ANIMALS

While around 10% of humans are left-handed, research shows that several animal species (such as cats, mice and rats) have an equal percentage of favoritism towards the right and left paw.

Female cats tend to be right-pawed; tom cats tend to be left-pawed.

Almost all kangaroos are left-handed.

FUN FACTS

The Greek for 'left-handed' also means 'better'.

The word "sinister" comes from the ancient Roman word meaning "left."

"Stewardesses" is the longest word that is typed with only the left hand.

Most Muppets are left-handed because the Muppeteer's right hand is used to operate the head.

A higher than usual number of characters in The Simpsons appear to be left-handed (Bart Simpson, Seymour Skinner, Ned Flanders and others). This is due to the fact that the creator of the show Matt Groening himself is left-handed.

On April 1, 1998, Burger King took out a full-page advert in USA Today introducing a Whopper designed especially for lefties. The new burger would contain the same ingredients as the original, but rotated 180°. Thousands of customers swarmed Burger King restaurants requesting the "lefty" Whopper.

Source Daily Express 

Left-hand traffic

The reason the British drive on the left hand side dates from the Roman occupation. This was because in the early days of horse travel on lonely tracks, it made sense to ride close to the left of the track so that the traveler could have his sword in his right hand to ward off any attacker.

Pope Boniface VIII who was Pope between 1294 - 1303, decreed that pilgrims traveling to Rome keep to the left. This rule allowed travelers to reach their swords easily if they passed suspicious characters.

The earliest known official "keep left" regulation was issued in 1756 for vehicles crossing London Bridge.

In 1772 Scotland became the first country to make left-hand travel a national law, applying to all city traffic. (Offenders were fined 20 shillings, a substantial amount then.)

England and Wales followed suit in 1835 make left-hand travel a national law, applying to all city traffic.

The Australians have driven the left since the first road was built in the British colony of New South Wales in the early 19th century.


Sweden changed its traffic directionality from the left-hand side of the road to the right on September 3, 1967. The day was called Dagen H, the "H" standing for "Högertrafik", the Swedish word for "right traffic".

Kungsgatan, Stockholm, on Dagen H

Today, about 65% of the world's population live in countries with right-hand traffic and 35% in countries with left-hand traffic.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Leek

The leek belongs to the genus Allium, which is the same genus as the onion and garlic.

The edible part of the leek plant is a bundle of leaf sheaths that is sometimes erroneously called a stem or stalk.


The leek was a part of the Ancient Egyptian diet from at least the second millennium BC onwards. It was also grown in Mesopotamia starting from around the same time.

Leeks are mentioned once in the Bible. Numbers 11:5 says: "We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost--also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates prescribed leeks as a cure for nosebleeds.

The Roman emperor Nero had leek soup served to him every day, as he believed the leek made his speech honeyed and thus gave him a clear and sonorous voice for delivering his orations. Due to his inordinate appetite for leeks some people nicknamed him "Porrophagus" ("porrum" meaning leek in Latin.)

First century AD Roman women used a mixture of boiled walnuts and leeks to make their hair appear dark and shiny.

The leek is one of the national emblems of Wales and is worn along with the daffodil on St. David’s Day.  Leeks were worshipped by the ancient welsh for their supposed medicinal properties and power to keep evil spirits away.

It is said that King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd ordered his soldiers to identify themselves by wearing the vegetable on their helmets in a 640AD battle against the Saxons that took place in a leek field. When the Welsh won, they attributed their success to the leeks they wore to distinguish themselves.

Because of their symbolism in Wales, leeks have come to be used extensively in that country’s cuisine.

The Royal Welsh Fusiliers have a tradition of eating raw leeks on St David’s Day.

The Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne made a law that each of his people should have a leek on their roof to ward off evil spirits.

Sources Daily Express, Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

Leech

The use of leeches in medicine dates as far back as 2,500 years ago to ancient Greece and India.. It was found that the saliva contained a property that prevents the clotting of blood.

Lord Byron passed away after days of rheumatic fever caught from Missolonghi marshes. He died of a loss of blood due to Greek doctors attempting to cure his fits by leeches.


Scientists are aware of about 700 different species, but they know there are many more out there.

The internal structure of the leech is divided into 32 segments. Each of these 32 segments has its own segment of brain.

The giant Amazon leech (Haementeria ghilianii) can grow up to 18 inches and live up to 20 years. Scientists thought the species was extinct until a zoologist found two specimens in the 1970s, one of whom he named Grandma Moses.

Leeches can live comfortably in an individual's esophagus for months.

An Edinburgh woman found a 3-inch-long leech in her nose a month after a trip to Southeast Asia.

Source Mentalfloss.com

Friday, 25 December 2015

Harper Lee

She was born Nelle Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama on April 28, 1926. Lee was named in honor of a grandmother called Ellen; (Nelle is Ellen spelled backwards). She grew up using the name Nelle; to this day, the people in her life refer to Lee as Nelle.

Her father an editor, lawyer and politician (he served in the Alabama House of Representatives) is purported to be the model upon some of the characteristics for Atticus Finch (from To Kill a Mockingbird) was based.

Truman Capote based the character of Idabel in his first novel, 1948's Other Voices, Other Rooms on neighbor and childhood friend, Harper Lee.

Lee worked as an airline reservation clerk while living in New York, before she was a writer.

Some friends offered to support Harper Lee for a year while she pursued writing full-time as a Christmas present. She left her job and penned the first draft of her story about life in the South, which was to become To Kill a Mockingbird.

Ultimately, Lee spent over two and a half years writing To Kill a Mockingbird. The book was published on July 11, 1960 and went on to be regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century.

First edition dust jacket Wikipedia Commons

To Kill a Mockingbird was credited to Harper Lee, as the authoress didn’t want to take the chance that people might mistake the name Nelle for Nellie.

To Kill a Mockingbird has been honored with numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. Harper Lee was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush (see below) on November 5, 2007.


The 1962 movie To Kill a Mockingbird based on the book was also a classic. Starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Mary Badham as Scout, and Robert Duvall making his film debut as Boo Radley, the film would go on to be nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director and would win three of them, including a Best Actor Oscar for Peck.

The watch used in the film was a prop, but Harper Lee gave Gregory Peck her father's watch after the film was completed because he reminded her so much of him.


Harper Lee largely disappeared from the limelight after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Due to themes including racial injustice, and sexual and physical violence, the book has been banned repeatedly since its publishing by school boards and libraries around America.

Lee was a research assistant to her friend, Truman Capote when he wrote In Cold Blood in 1966, based on real-life events in Holcombe, Kansas. Some critics even claim she should be credited as an author of the book. He dedicated the novel to her.

Harper Lee www.biography.com-

Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman in the mid-1950s, but her editor persuaded her to turn some of the story's flashback sequences into a separate novel, which became To Kill A Mockingbird.

Go Set a Watchman was published in July 2015. The book is set 20 years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird. The title comes from Isaiah 21:6: "For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth."

The novel has had mixed reviews, with many Harper Lee fans shocked to discover that Atticus Finch, the moral center of To Kill a Mockingbird, is painted as a racist "bigot".

Harper Lee died in her sleep on February 19, 2016. She was aged 89. Her funeral was held the next day at First United Methodist Church in Monroeville, Alabama.

Source About.com

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin formed in London in 1968. The rock group consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham.

The band played together for the first time in front of a live audience at Gladsaxe Teen Clubs in Gladsaxe, Denmark, on September 7, 1968.

Led Zeppelin got their first recording contract based on the recommendation of Dusty Springfield. Jones and Page had both played on some of her albums.

They got their name from a fellow musician, who said their band would go down like a "lead balloon."


Led Zeppelin performed in Denmark under the name 'The Nobs' because Eva von Zeppelin, granddaughter of the inventor of Zeppelin airships, threatened to sue them otherwise for tarnishing the family name.

Aleister Crowley, a practitioner of black magic, was a big influence on Jimmy Page. In 1970, Page bought a house in Scotland where Crowley used to live. He has since sold it.

Led Zeppelin played their most famous song, "Stairway To Heaven"  for the first time in Belfast on March 5, 1971 - Northern Ireland was a war zone at the time and there was rioting in nearby streets. John Paul Jones said in an audio documentary that when they played it, the audience was not that impressed. They wanted to hear something they knew - like "Whole Lotta Love."

By Source, Fair use, Wikipedia Commons

Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album, often called Led Zeppelin IV and released on 8 November 1971, is their most commercially successful LP. It received a 23 times multi-platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America, the third-highest of all albums.

In 1975 Led Zeppelin became the first band in history to have six albums on the Billboard chart at once when Physical Graffiti was released. Their previous five albums, Led Zeppelin IV, House of the Holy, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin III all returned to the charts. They rarely released singles, which helped their album sales.

Led Zeppelin performing at Chicago Stadium in January 1975. By tony morelli  Wikipedia Commons

The band pioneered the concept of album-oriented rock and often refused to release popular songs as singles.

Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died at age 32 of asphyxiation from vomiting after drinking the equivalent of 40 shots of vodka in one day on September 25, 1980. The band decide to break up instead of replacing him, officially disbanding on December 4, 1980.

Bonham performing with Led Zeppelin in 1973. By Dina Regine - Wikipedia

They never have fully reformed, but the remaining three members have played some shows with Jason Bonham filling in for his father.

In 2005, 3,500 music fans were polled for Planet Rock Radio and were asked to vote for individual band members to create an "ideal supergroup." They voted for the four members of Led Zeppelin.

A reunited Led Zeppelin in December 2007 at The O2 in London. From left to right: John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, and Jimmy Page. On drums is Jason Bonham. p_a_h from UK Flickr.com. 
Source Artistfacts

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Lebanon

Lebanon was the home of the Phoenicians and their kingdom, a sea-faring culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1500 BC to 300 BC.

The Lebanon region was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire from 1516 to 1918.

Lebanon was devastated by civil war in the 1970s and 1980s. There was conflict between Sunnis and Shias, between Christians and Muslims, and the involvement of Israel, Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The Cedar Revolution Lebanon's March 14 Alliance got its name from this day on March 14, 2005. Over a million people took to the streets of Beirut to demand the end of Syrian occupation, which by then had lasted 29 years.

By Lefendi - Own work,Wikipedia Commons

Lebanon is the only Middle Eastern country without a desert.

About 60% of Lebanese people are Muslim and 39% are Christian.

The national symbol in Lebanon is the Cedar tree, because an abundance of them are found in the Lebanon Mountains.


In ancient times wood from the cedar of Lebanon was prized above all other woods. The warm, red wood is free of knots and has a fragrance, which is pleasant to humans, but repels insects, It was in every way an ideal wood for large buildings.

After Switzerland, the world’s largest per capita gold reserves are held by Lebanon.

Leather

Early Stone Age people wrapped themselves in dried animal pelts and discovered ways of softening and preserving the skins. This was the beginning of leather processing. At first the pelts were probably dried in air and sunlight, then later they may have been soaked in water and dried over a fire. Further on, it would have been discovered that certain twigs, barks, and leaves soaked with the hides in water helped to preserve the skins..

Evidence exists for the use of leather by the ancient Sumerians as far back as 6000 BC.

Archaeological studies have found the earliest leather shoe, skirt and wine-producing facility in Armenia, dated to about 4000 BC.

Ancient Egyptian stone carvings show leather workers. Egyptian leather sandals more than 3,300 years old are in museums.

The Israelites learned to make leather from the Egyptians. A passage in the Old Testament reads, "Unto Adam and also unto his wife did the Lord God make clothes of skins and clothe them."


The colonists brought oak-bark tanning methods from England. The first leathermaker, named Experience Miller, arrived in Plymouth in 1623.

When the first settlers arrived in America, they found that the Indians' tanning method was much like the ancient shamoying, a method used by the Arabs and mentioned by Homer. The Indians taught the pioneers how to make buckskin.

By 1650 there were 51 tanners in Massachusetts. The early leathermakers simply dug holes in the ground and walled them with planking. In these holes hides were covered with oak bark and left for at least six months. This method was no more advanced than that used by the ancient Hebrews.

Sir Humphry Davy discovered that materials from other trees--hemlock, mimosa, chestnut, and ash--could be used in tanning. These trees were plentiful in the United States and helped make it the center of the leather trade.



Brogues were originally rough leather boots worn in Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland, but applied in the 20th century  to sturdy shoes with patterns of perforation in an upper layer of leather, worn in particular for such activities as shooting or golf.

William Ramsay first produced the Kiwi shoe polish in 1906. Within two years, his firm had developed the famous "dark tan," the first stain polish, capable of altering the color of leather.

The first US Marines wore high leather collars to protect their necks from sabres, hence the name "leathernecks."

Corinthian leather is a term coined in 1974 by the advertising agency Bozell to describe the upholstery used in certain Chrysler luxury vehicles. The term suggests that the product has a relationship to or origination from Corinth, but the supplier was located outside Newark, New Jersey.

 A 1978 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham, showing the plush leather interior. By Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA

Leather skin does not have any smell. The leather smell that you sense is actually derived from the materials used in the tanning process.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Leap year

It takes the Earth 365.25 days to make this trip around the sun. In other words, for every year we gain one-fourth of a day and every four years we gain an extra day hence the Leap year.


Cleopatra introduced Julius Caesar to her astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria, who suggested to the Roman dictator the idea of leap days and leap years.

Julius Caesar introduced the first leap year around 46 B.C., but his Julian calendar had only one rule: Any year evenly divisible by four would be a leap year.

There was no February 29th in Caesar’s leap years but February 24th was repeated.

Before Julius Caesar proposed the Leap Year, people observed a 355-day calendar with an extra 22-day month every two years.

Caesar's Julian Calendar didn't exactly coordinate the measured year with the earth's orbit around the sun, so when Pope Gregory XIII revised the calendar in 1582, he left century years out of the leap day rule unless the number before the 00 is divisible by 4. This means the year 2100 will not be a leap year.

It is acceptable for a woman to propose to a man on February 29th. The custom has been attributed to St. Bridget, who is said to have complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait for men to propose marriage. Patrick supposedly gave women one day to propose.


In 1288 Queen Margaret of Scotland made a ruling that on Leap Year Day a woman could propose marriage to the man of her choice. She also stated that any man who refused a proposal on leap year must pay a fine or buy the woman 12 pairs of gloves.

Alessandro Farnese was born on February 29, 1468 in Lazio, Italy. Later, he became Pope Paul III — he was the only Pope ever to be born on a leap year day,

If America had done away with leap days on July 4, 1776,  the US calendar today would be a full two months ahead of the Earth's position.

A person born on February 29th may be called a "leapling" or a "leaper." Some famous leapers are English poet John Byrom, Italian pianist and composer Gioachino Rossini, band leader Jimmy Dorsey and the rapper Ja Rule.

The eighth premier of Tasmania, James Milne Wilson, was born on a leap day and died on a leap day in the 1800s.

Karin Henriksen of Norway gave birth to children on February 29 in 1960, 1964 and 1968, and Louise Estes of Provo, Utah, who gave birth on February 29 in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

There are an estimated 5 million leapsters alive today.

Because there seemed to be an overabundance of people born in Anthony in Texas on February 29, the town declared itself the Leap Year Capital of the World in 1988. It holds a huge party every February 29th.

The only time a month begins and ends on the same day of the week is February in a leap year.

Sources USA Today, Daily Express

Leaf

Regardless of climate, tree leaves maintain an internal temperature of 70 degrees F (21 degrees C), which is the perfect temperature for photosynthesis.

It is estimated that your chances of finding a four-leaf clover on the first try are 1 in 10,000.

Evergreen trees will not lose their leaves in the fall like deciduous trees. Their leaves, also called needles, are covered with a thick wax. This wax protects the inner components of the needles, preventing them from freezing.

Leaves turn yellow and orange because those pigments are present year round, you just can't see them until their chlorophyll breaks down.


The leaves of the Ficus religiosa tree move continuously even when the air around is still and no wind is blowing. This phenomenon can be explained due to the long leaf stalk and the broad leaf structure.

A lotus leaf is able to self-clean by causing water to bead up and collect dirt on its ultrahydrophobic surface

Raphia palm tree have got the largest leaves; one leaf can grow up to 20 meters.


Lawyer

The earliest people who could be described as "lawyers" were probably the orators of ancient Athens. However Athenian law forbade them from taking a fee to plead the cause of another. This meant the advocate had to uphold the legal fiction that they were merely an ordinary citizen generously helping out a friend for free, and thus they could never organize into a real profession.

Early Roman advocates were trained in rhetoric, not law, but in time Rome developed a class of specialists who were learned in the law, known as jurisconsults. These specialist legal orators were wealthy amateurs who dabbled in law as an intellectual hobby; they did not make their primary living from it.

Shakespeare still upsets legal eagles with his ''The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers'' line. It was stated by Dick the Butcher,  a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, who thought that if he disturbed law and order, he could become king in 'Henry VI' Part II. Shakespeare gift shops report that items bearing the slogan tend to sell well

The early colonists brought with them the long-standing English sentiment against lawyers and tried to do without them. Massachusetts (1641), Virginia (1658), and the Carolinas (1669) all enacted statutes that prohibited pleading in court for hire.

On the death of King Charles II in 1685, the English Bar entered a period of mourning and.started to wear black mourning robes, complete with pleated shoulders and tapered elbows. Although the Bar has stopped formally stopped mourning the death of the monarch, barristers in the UK still dress in all black in court.


The first African-American man to become a lawyer was John Mercer Langston, who passed the bar exam in 1854.

Myra Bradwell's love of the law had begun when she married her husband James Bradwell in 1852, who was also a law student. She started her formal law training when her husband was accepted to the Illinois Bar. There she apprenticed as a lawyer in her husband's office, and assisted him with research and legal writings. On August 2, 1869, Bradwell passed the Illinois law exam becoming the first female lawyer in US. The following month she applied for the submission to the bar, but was prevented, due to her gender, from being admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1890, and the United States Supreme Court two years later,



Despite an Iowa state law restricting the bar exam to males, Arabella Mansfield took it in 1869 and earned high scores. Shortly afterwards, Mansfield challenged the state law excluding her and the Court ruled that women may not be denied the right to practice law in Iowa, admitting Mansfield to the bar. Mansfield was sworn in at the Union Block building in Mount Pleasant that year becoming America's first woman lawyer allowed to practice.

In 1870, Ada H. Kepley, of Illinois, graduated from the Union College of Law in Chicago. In doing so, she became the first woman lawyer to graduate from a law school.

American President Rutherford B. Hayes signed a bill allowing female attorneys to argue cases before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1879. That same year Belva Ann Lockwood was the first American woman lawyer to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lincoln's Inn in London admitted its first female bar student on December 30, 1919

The Guyana-born lawyer Sir Lionel Luckhoo, achieved 245 consecutive murder charge acquittals between 1940 and 1985.

Matthew McConaughey gave up on going to law school in 1993 to go into acting. His breakout movie role came three years later, as a lawyer.