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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Vladimir Putin


Vladimir Putin was born in a middle class family on October 7, 1952, in Leningrad (now St Petersburg), Russian SFSR, Soviet Union.

His parents were Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin (1911–1999) and Maria Ivanovna Putina (née Shelomova; 1911–1998).

Vladimir Putin's grandfather worked as a chef for Rasputin, Lenin and Stalin.

Putin studied German at St Petersburg High School 281 and speaks the language fluently.

He studied Law at the St Petersburg State University, graduating in 1975. His thesis was on "The Most Favored Nation Trading Principle in International Law."


Putin had dreamed of becoming an intelligence officer ever since he was a child and in 1975, he joined the KGB, training at the 401st KGB school in Okhta, Leningrad.

Putin in KGB uniform, c. 1980

Putin was a KGB Foreign Intelligence Officer for 16 years. From 1985 to 1989, he worked in Dresden, East Germany.

After East Germany collapsed in 1989, Putin was told to return to the Soviet Union. He chose to go to Leningrad, where he'd attended university.

In June 1990, he started working in the International Affairs section of Leningrad State University and the following year,  Putin was appointed head of the International Committee of the Saint Petersburg Mayor's office. His job was to promote international relations and foreign investments.

Putin gave up his position in the KGB on August 20, 1991, during the putsch against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.


In 1991 Putin entered politics and three years later, he became First Deputy Chairman of the city of Saint Petersburg.

Putin shifted to Moscow in August 1996, along with his family and there he served in a variety of important positions in Boris Yeltsin's government. He was director of the FSB (a newer version of the KGB) from July 1998 to August 1999, and Secretary of the Security Council from March to August 1999.

Putin as FSB director, 1998. By RIA Novosti archive, Wikipedia


On August 9, 1999, Russian President Boris Yeltsin fireed his Prime Minister, Sergei Stepashin, and for the fourth time fires his entire cabinet. Vladimir Putin was appointed one of three First Deputy Prime Ministers, and later on that day was appointed acting Prime Minister of the Government of the Russian Federation.

At the end of that year, Yeltsin stepped down as President. nominating Putin as his successor.

Putin won the subsequent 2000 Presidential election by a 53% to 30% margin, thus avoiding a runoff with his Communist Party of the Russian Federation opponent, Gennady Zyuganov. He was re-elected President in 2004 with 72% of the vote.

Vladimir Putin was sworn in as president of Russia, on May 7, 2000. He served as Russian president from 2000-2008.

Putin taking presidential oath beside Boris Yeltsin, May 2000. By Presidential Press and Information Office 

During Putin's first period as president, the Russian economy grew for eight straight years, and GDP measured in purchasing power increased by 72%.

In 2007, Putin was the Time Person of the Year.

According to the Constitution of Russia, no-one can be president three times in a row. Because of this, Putin didn't put himself forward for the March 2008 election, so he served as Prime Minister under the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev from 2008-2012.

However, one can be president as many times as you want, as long as it's not for more than two times in a row. In September 2011, after presidential terms were extended from four to six years, Putin put himself forward for the elections, and in March 2012 he was re-elected as president, winning 64% of the vote. He is also leader of the ruling United Russia party.


On March 24, 2014, Putin and Russia were suspended from the G8 after Russia's annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Eastern Ukraine.

Putin gained 76% of the March 2018 presidential vote, and was re-elected for a six-year term that will end in 2024.


Putin married Lyudmila Shkrebneva, a flight attendant for the Kaliningrad branch of Aeroflot on July 28, 1983. They had been courting for three years.

Putin and Lyudmila Putina at their wedding, 28 July 1983

The couple had two daughters, Mariya (born April 28, 1985, Leningrad, Soviet Union) and Yekaterina (Katja) (born August 31, 1986, in Dresden, East Germany).

After Vladimir's rise to political power, Lyudmila maintained a low profile on the Russian political stage, generally avoiding the limelight except as required by protocol and restricting her public role to supportive statements about her husband.

On June 6, 2013, Lyudmila Putina and her husband publicly announced their divorce based on a mutual decision.

Putin is close friends with ex Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi. After Berlusconi was banned from the Italian parliament in 2013, Putin reportedly offered him Russian citizenship. Most strangely, the former Italian leader gave Putin a duvet emblazoned with a life-size image of the two to celebrate his 65th birthday.

Putin is a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, and regularly attends the most important services of the church on the main Orthodox Christian holidays.

Putin attends the Orthodox Christmas service in the Tver region, 7 January 2016

Putin began training in sambo (a martial art form) at the age of 14, before switching to judo, for which he gained a black belt and continues to take part in. Putin also practices karate.

Putin has a passion for adventure sports. He has done several well-documented publicity stunts, including saving a TV crew from a Siberian tiger. He later acknowledged they were all staged.

Vladimir Putin walks with his right arm held immobile while his left arm swings because of his KGB training—he keeps his gun arm close.

Monday, 29 May 2017


A purse is a small bag that is used to carry money. Most men usually keep their money in their wallets which they keep in their pockets, while women usually use purses.

The oldest known purse was found with Ötzi the Iceman who lived around 3,300 BC. It contained some magic mushrooms.

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs show pouches worn around the waist.

Model of an ancient Roman leather purse

Bishop Nicholas of Myra who died in Asia Minor in 343 had a reputation for secret gift-giving. He is said, for instance, to have helped three poor girls by throwing purses of money through their window. The idea of Santa Claus coming down chimneys to deliver presents has its origin in that story.

The purse-lid from the Sutton Hoo burial is a very elaborate, probably royal, metalwork cover for a (presumably) leather Anglo-Saxon purse of the early 7th century. About seven and a half inches long, it is decorated with beautiful ornament in gold and garnet cloisonné enamel, and was undoubtedly a symbol of great wealth and status. It is thought to have belonged to Raedwald, King of East Anglia, who died around 624 AD.

Sutton Hoo purse-lid

Geoffrey Chaucer the author of Canterbury Tales also wrote several notable ballads such as " his empty purse."

By the 1400's both men and women were wearing purses, and as times prospered and the little sacks got fuller, they were ornamented with gold or elaborate embroidery.

By the end of the 1500s, women preferred to wear their purse pouches under their skirts.

The phrase to hold the purse strings means to bee responsible for budget and expenditure. This refers to when purses consisted of leather pouches, closed at the top by a drawstring which would be tied to a belt or hung around one’s neck.

In the 17th century, purses became more complex and elaborate. Girls were taught skills such as embroidery and needlework that could assist them in finding a husband. These skills gave rise to stitched artwork on these purses.

Man's purse probably France, 17th century

In the 1670s breeches with built-in pockets came into fashion and men dispensed with their elaborate purses. But they did continue to carry a little netted "purse" for money inside the pocket.

In the 1920's, as dresses got skimpier, and purse pouches impractical, separate handbags for females' money (and other items) became indispensable, and have remained so until the present.

The metalliv pieces in the original 1935 edition of Monopoly included a purse. In 1952 Scottie dog, wheelbarrow and horse and rider replaced lantern, purse and rocking horse.


Although purring is commonly associated with cats, other animals make a similar tonal fluttering sound. Other purring animals include badgers, bears, civets, foxes, genets, guinea pigs, hyenas, ring-tailed lemurs, mongooses, raccoons, rabbits and squirrels.

Gorillas purr while eating.

No cat can both purr and roar. Some big cats such as lions and tigers cannot purr, but instead roar.

The snow leopard can purr and also makes a non-aggressive puffing sound called a 'chuff'.

Cats purr as a sign of contentment: when being petted, becoming relaxed or eating.

Domestic cats purr at a frequency of 20 to 30 vibrations per second.

Purring does not necessarily always indicate happiness. Cats also purr when they are frightened or threatened or in pain.  Some scientists believe this purring is a self-soothing and healing mechanism. In humans, the 25 Hz frequency is used in healing wounds.

The mechanism by which cats purr is speculative.  Most scientists think it starts in the brain where a signal is sent to the laryngeal muscles causing them to vibrate. This causes the vocal cords to separate when the cat both inhales and exhales and results in the purr that we hear.

Cats will usually stop purring when they hear water running.  This is a trick used by veterinarians who need the cat to stop purring long enough so they can listen to their heart and lungs.

The record for the loudest purring cat is held by Merlin, a 13-year-old rescue kitty from Torquay, Devon in England. During the filming of the Channel 5 TV show, Cats Make You Laugh Out Loud 2 on April 2, 2015, with a Guinness World Records adjudicator on hand to verify, Merlin registered a purr measuring 67.8 decibels, beating the previous record of 67.68 decibels set in 2011 by Smokey – another British cat.

Sunday, 28 May 2017


The term Puritan was principally applied from the 1560s to those progressive Protestants who wished to purify the Church of England in accordance with scripture from what they regarded as superstitious and corrupt rituals retained after its separation from Rome.

In later years the term came to be applied to Protestant Christians who were of a particular austere or strict persuasion. The name was generally applied with scorn, implying a "holier than thou" attitude on the part of those who were so called thus.

Puritan elder confronts ale drinkers

Strict Puritan laws had their origins from practical reasons. Smoking was banned - farmers would raise badly needed food crops instead of tobacco. Cooking was banned on Sundays - to prevent house fires during the long hours the family was at church.

Anglican treatises on the family listed procreation as the primary purpose of marriage, followed by restraint and remedy of sin, and finally companionship. The Puritans reversed the order, putting mutual society, help, and comfort in first place.

Daniel Rogers wrote, "Husbands and wives should be as two sweet friends, bred under one constellation, tempered by an influence from heaven whereof neither can give any reason, save mercy and providence first made them so, and then made their match; saying, see, God hath determined us out of this vast world for each other." In direct contrast to the medieval Catholic glorification of celibacy, the Puritans placed a very high value on marriage, sex, and family—as long as they occurred in that order!

William Dobson, Portrait of a Family, Probably that of Richard Streatfeild 

Puritans associated art in churches with Catholicism, but they bought art for their homes.

They objected to theaters, which had become centers of prostitution and dissipation in their day, but the Puritans did not necessarily object to dramatic art—the puritan poet John Milton wrote a masque, Comus, for private performance.

The Puritans extolled plainness in women and denounce adornments such as make-up and elaborate dress as evil. In Puritan England the church denounced lip painting as altering God's most precious gift.

The Plymouth Colony Puritans of New England disapproved of Christmas celebrations, as did some other Protestant churches of the time. The celebrating of Christmas was outlawed in Boston from 1659 until 1681, but it was not until the mid-19th century that celebrating Christ's birth became fashionable in the Boston region.

Public notice in Boston deeming Christmas illegal

The Puritans took Sabbath observance very seriously. When King James I threw down the gauntlet by publishing the Book of Sports—a list of the sports and games one could lawfully engage in after church—the controversy that followed was so volatile that a 17th-century historian cited it as one of the leading causes of the English Civil War.

The Puritans did value recreation—just not on Sunday. On other days of the week, they enjoyed a form of football, archery, bowling, fishing, hunting, skating, swimming, and any other amusement they did not deem immoral (such as gambling or horse racing). In fact, some Puritan leaders urged employers to give their workers time for play and exercise during the week, so that Sunday could truly be a day of rest for both spirit and body.

Sources Interesting and unusual facts about the English Puritans. Compiled by Jennifer Trafton and Leland Ryken Christian History Issue 89 in 2006 , BBC History Magazine 


According to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, Purgatory is a halfway house between heaven and earth where ones souls are cleansed so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. Protestants discount this teaching.

The Roman Catholic tradition of Purgatory has a history that dates back to the belief, found in Pre-Christian Judaism that prayer for the dead contributed to their afterlife purification. St Augustine of Hippo developed many Catholic doctrines including belief in purgatory, St. Ambrose of Milan spoke of a kind of "baptism of fire" which is located at the entrance to Heaven, and through which all must pass, at the end of the world and Pope St. Gregory the Great stated his belief in Purgatory adding however that the Purgatorial fire could only purify away minor transgressions, not "iron, bronze, or lead," or other "hardened" (duriora) sins.

Image of a fiery purgatory by Ludovico Carracci

The concept of purgatory was made official church doctrine at the 1274 Council of Lyons. The council wrote that Christians who had not shown sufficient repentance for their sin needed to be cleansed by purgatorial punishments. Furthermore, the council taught that these punishments could be relieved for oneself (or for those who had died) through “the sacrifices of Masses, prayers, alms, and other duties of piety.”

Perhaps the best-known instance of purgatory in the arts is Dante's Purgatorio, the second book of his Divine Comedy.

Despite the Roman poet Virgil (70-19BC) being an unbaptized pagan, his fourth Eclogue contained a passage which some interpreted as a prediction of the birth of Christ. This led to his acceptance as an "honorary Christian" by the medieval church and Dante made Virgil his guide to Purgatory (and Hell) in The Divine Comedy.

When Dante's Divine Comedy allocated the great men of the Christian era to their destiny after death, the Arabic sultan Saladin was placed in Purgatory rather than Hell, despite being a heathen who fought the Crusaders. Such was his chivalry and generosities to losers, many believed Saladin must have been a secret Christian.

Image of a non-fiery purgatory (Gustave Doré: illustration for Dante's Purgatorio, Canto 24).

The medieval Roman church raised money for their benefit by selling indulgences for the forgiveness of sins. You could either purchase forgiveness for yourself; or you could even shorten the time your dead relatives spend in purgatory. The selling of indulgences reached its peak in the second decade of the 16th century as  Rome had just begun to build the extravagant new basilica of St Peter. The church was already in a financial crisis and in money had to be raised to somehow.

Martin Luther's career as a reformer began after a visit to Rome in 1510-11 where the sale of indulgences angered him. After much study, Martin Luther concluded that the selling of indulgences to shorten loved ones time in purgatory was entirely contrary to the teaching of Scripture, which is the free forgiveness of sin by simple faith in the shed blood of Christ on the Cross. On October 31, 1517, Luther nailed up on the church door at Wittenburg his 95 Theses, (the standard way of raising issues for debate), arguing that a Christian has had a full pardon from God. His proposals included the selling of indulgences and doctrinal policies about purgatory.

Henry VIII was interested in theology and personally remained a Catholic during the Reformation though he rejected some Catholic theology such as purgatory.

Shakespeare used Catholic imagery in several of his plays including the return of the ghost from purgatory in Hamlet.

Recent Roman Catholic thought plays down the idea of punishment (though without losing it completely) and instead emphasizes the idea of purification. The 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church has a section on purgatory. As the title of this section (The Final Purification or Purgatory) indicates, the emphasis throughout is on the purification required to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven, and this purification is contrasted with a punishment of the damned.

Probably the most famous Protestant advocate of the idea of a purgatorial purification after death was C.S Lewis. He stated that he had never believed that "the faithfulest soul could leap straight into perfection and peace the moment death has rattled in the throat." A Grief Observed).

Source Christianity magazine

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Henry Purcell

Henry Purcell was born in St Ann's Lane, Old Pye Street Westminster, the area of London later known as Devil's Acre, probably in 1659. As far as is known he spent his entire life in Westminster.

Henry's father, Henry Purcell Senior, was a musician in service to the king. He died in 1665 and young Henry went to live with his uncle, Thomas Purcell, who showed him great affection and kindness.

Thomas Purcell was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal which meant that Henry received his early training as a chorister in the king’s choir.

After Henry's voice broke in 1673, he held various posts, including that of organ tuner at Westminster Abbey, and in 1679 he succeeded the composer John Blow as organist there.

In 1682 Purcell became organist of the Chapel Royal, combining the job with being organist at Westminster Abbey. His first printed composition, "Twelve Sonatas," was published the following year.

Purcell by John Closterman, probably 1695

Purcell contributed many splendid anthems to the Chapel Royal services and a number of elaborate choral odes and welcome songs for royal occasions. He penned six odes for the birthday of Queen Mary, two of his finest anthems, "I was glad" and "My heart is inditing", were written for the 1685 coronation of James II and he also composed music for Queen Mary's funeral in 1695.

Purcell's "Te Deum and Jubilate" was written for Saint Cecilia's Day in 1693. It was the first English Te Deum ever composed with orchestral accompaniment.

Although he only lived until his mid 30s, Purcell wrote a very large amount of music. The most original English composer of his time, he merged the Italian and French styles with the English madrigal tradition to create a uniquely English form of Baroque music. Purcell's compositions, many of which were not published until after his death, include numerous songs, 13 fantasias for ensembles of varied numbers of viols and a series of sonatas for strings with organ or harpsichord. Many believe Purcell was England’s greatest composer until Sir Edward Elgar emerged 200 years later.

The Flowering of the English Baroque", bronze memorial sculpture by Glynn Williams in Westminster.

The personal taste of Purcell was more for the theater and after the death of King Charles II in 1685, he devoted much of his time to writing music for the stage. Purcell wrote incidental music for a total 43 plays. In some instances, as in his music for The Fairy Queen (1692), an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, he interpolated songs in such a way that the works, while not quite operas, are still more than mere plays with added music.

Purcell wrote one true opera, Dido and Aeneas, which was based on the mythological story of Dido, Queen of Carthage and the Trojan prince Aeneas, and her despair at his abandonment. It is based on Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid, but unlike the original story, Purcell threw a couple of witches into the musical pot, who trick the prince into leaving his love.

The Meeting of Dido and Aeneas by Nathaniel Dance-Holland
The first known performance of Dido and Aeneas was at Josias Priest's girls' school in London in the spring of 1689. It was premiered in co-operation with Josias Priest, a dancing master and the choreographer for the Dorset Garden Theatre. Priest's wife kept a boarding school for young gentlewomen, where the opera was debuted.

Purcell fathered six children by his wife Frances, four of whom died in infancy.

Purcell died at his home in Marsham Street, London on November 21, 1695, at the height of his career. He is believed to have been 35 or 36 years old at the time. The cause of his death is unclear, but was possibly tuberculosis. His wife and two of his six children survived him.

Another portrait of Henry Purcell

Purcell is buried next to the organ in Westminster Abbey. His epitaph reads, "Here lyes Henry Purcell Esq., who left this life and is gone to that blessed place where only his harmony can be exceeded."

He left his last work, the opera The Indian Queen (1695), unfinished at his death. His brother Daniel completed it.

Sources Europress Encyclopedia, Comptons Encyclopedia

Friday, 26 May 2017



In ancient Rome, auburn-haired puppies were sacrificed to ensure a plentiful corn crop.

Puppy training manuals date as far back as 127-116 B.C., when Roman farmer Marcus Varro recorded advice on raising and training puppies for herding livestock.

In the United Kingdom a tax was levied upon working dogs with tails, so many puppies had their tails docked to avoid this tax. The tax was repealed in 1796 but that did not stop the practice from persisting.

The largest litter ever recorded of surviving puppies was on June 19, 1944, in Ambler, Pennsylvania, when an American Foxhound gave birth to 23 healthy pups.

The Guinness world record for the most puppies ever delivered in one litter belongs to Tia, a Neapolitan mastiff living in England. On November 24, 2009, she gave birth to 24 puppies. The pups were delivered by Cesarean section, but one was stillborn and three others died in the first week. Tia was owned by Damian Ward and Anne Kellegher of Manea, Cambridgeshire.


The word puppy has been used for a small or young dog since the 15th century.

It has been used for a young seal or shark since the late 19th century, while pup has been extended to young giraffesguinea pigs and rats.

The earliest known use of the phrase “puppy love” for a brief romantic attachment between young people was in 1823.

Officially, a puppy is a puppy until it has reached one year old.


Every hour, about 12,500 puppies are born in the U.S.

A puppy does not open its eyes until about 10 days after birth.

A puppy attains half its adult weight at about 14 weeks of age, or five months for large breeds.

When playing with female puppies, male puppies will often let them win, even if they have a physical advantage.

By Heather - originally posted to Flickr as Puppies Wrestling,

Professional animal trainers and the American Kennel Club advise puppies should be introduced to "100 People by 12 Weeks" and have encountered a wide and varied selection of people and environments.

17-year-old refugee Aslan Al Hakim refused to leave his puppy, Rose, in Syria and carried her more than 300 miles to safety in Greece.

Source Daily Express


Puppets have existed for thousands of years and in nearly all civilizations. They are mentioned in Xenophon's Symposium of the 5th century BC, and there are ancient traditions of puppetry in China, India, Java and other parts of Asia. Puppets were  also known in ancient Egypt and in classical Greece.

Ancient Greek terracotta puppet dolls, 5th/4th century BC, By Giovanni Dall'Orto. 

Roi nuoc, or water puppetry originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered and the shows are then performed in a waist-deep pool. A large bamboo rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. The earliest performance of roi nuoc was recorded in Vietnam in 1121.

Performance of the water puppet theatre Thăng Long in Hanoi

The rise of the puppet theater in Japan was encouraged by the increased complexity of puppets and improvements in puppet manipulation. The action of the puppets was accompanied by musical recitative, and by the playing of the shamisen. The most notable Japanese playwright, Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1725), wrote both puppet and Kabuki plays, but his best work was for the puppet theatre.

The diarist Samuel Pepys observed a marionette show featuring an early version of the Punch character in Covent Garden in London on May 9, 1662. It was performed by Italian puppet showman Pietro Gimonde, a.k.a. "Signor Bologna."

A fire during a puppet show in Burwell, Cambridgeshire, England killed 78 people (including 51 children) on September 8, 1727.

Johann Van Goethe acquired his first interest in the stage from a toy puppet show in his nursery. He wrote his first plays for this small puppet theater.

As a child, Hans Christian Anderson's favorite toy was a little homemade toy theater and young Hans sat at home making clothes for his wooden puppets, and reading all the plays that he could borrow. The Dane had a retentive memory and was known to memorize entire Shakespeare plays and recite them using his puppets as the characters.

The author George Sand opened a puppet theater in Nohant in 1847, showing plays written by her son,

There was a fashion for literary puppet theater in France during the latter part of the 19th century.

The Muppets are an ensemble cast of puppet characters, who were first created by puppeteer Jim Henson in 1955.Their name came from combining the words "puppet" and "marionette."

Emu, the puppet pal of the late comedian Rod Hull, ate the Queen Mother's bouquet at the Royal Variety Show in 1972.

The children's puppet TV show Sesame Street created an episode in the wake of 9/11 in which Big Bird has to deal with his pen pal Gulliver, who does not believe birds should be friendly to other species.

In Palermo, Sicily, there is a marionette theater where two foot high puppets perform extracts from the life of Charlemagne.

Pupaphobia is the fear of puppets.

Source Comptons Encyclopaedia

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Punk rock

The 1969 release of The Stooges' eponymous debut album is arguably the earliest trace of punk rock; along with MC 5's Kick Out The Jams.

Iggy Pop the frontman of The Stooges is considered the "godfather of punk." By Michael Markos, 

The term "punk" was first used in relation to rock music by some American critics in the early 1970s, to describe garage bands and their devotees.

Punk rock developed in New York City in the mid-1970s. Punk rock pioneers The Ramones played their first show in a local New York club named CBGB on August 16, 1974. The Ramones, along with other Big Apple acts such as Television, The Heartbreakers, Blondie, and Patti Smith quickly gained a following with their loud, angry songs.

Facade of legendary music club CBGB, New York

In 1977 The Ramones' "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker", a mash note to surfing, punk girls and New York   became the first punk song to hit the pop charts, peaking at #81 on the Hot 100..

The music soon spread to Australia and Britain, where bands started playing their own brand punk rock in 1976.  The Damned were one of the UK's first punk bands. In October 1976 they released the first British punk single, "New Rose".

The Sex Pistols were the first popular punk group in Britain. They were only together for a couple of years years, in the late 1970s, and they were known as much for their rowdy behaviour as their music.
Their debut single "Anarchy In The UK" summarized the Sex Pistols' mixture of confrontational politics with rock-and-roll disdain.

In the late 1970s, many idle unemployed teenagers in Britain adopted what they called the "punk look." The punk's brightly dyed and stiffly lacquered hair, the outsized safety pins they frequently sported on their torn clothes and their general appearance of repulsive neglect was intended to protest or rebellion against the norms and rules of society and to create anger and fear.

British punks, c. 1986. By Quercusrobur - Wikipedia

Source Europress Encyclopedia

Wednesday, 24 May 2017


Punctuation in the West didn’t really appear until about the end of the 3rd century BC when Aristophanes of Byzantium, head librarian at the Library of Alexandria introduced the precursors of today’s punctuation.

Aristophanes' system of three points of varying heights was never widely used and has virtually been forgotten. The only punctuation in use are interpuncts, which the Romans used to indicate word divisions in inscriptions, such as those found on buildings and monuments.

The asterisk derives from the two thousand year old character used by Aristarchus of Samothrace called the asteriskos, ※. He used it when proofreading Homeric poetry to mark lines that were duplicated.

Early asterisks seen in the margin of Greek papyrus.

Punctuation developed dramatically when large numbers of copies of the Bible started to be produced. These were designed to be read aloud, so the copyists began to introduce a range of marks to aid the reader,

The exclamation point was introduced in 15th century by printers looking for a way to denote a sense of wonderment or exclamation with a punctuation mark.

A semicolon is a punctuation mark, which was first used to separate words of opposed meaning and to indicate interdependent statements. The first printed semicolon was the work of Aldus Manutius in 1494. Ben Jonson was the first notable English writer to use the semicolon systematically.

As well as establishing the modern use of the semicolon, Italian printer/publisher Aldus Manutius (1449 – February 6, 1515)'s publishing legacy also includes the distinctions of inventing italic type, and developing the modern appearance of the comma.

A page from Francesco Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, an illustrated book printed by Aldus Manutius

In 1566, his grandson, Aldus Manutius the Younger, produced Orthographiae Ratio, the first book on the principles of punctuation.

Punctuation was not used in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean writing until the adoption of punctuation from the West in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The term full stop is used throughout the UK and Commonwealth as a term for the punctuation mark (.) at the end of a sentence. In American English, the word "period" is used and "full stop" is rarely used by speakers in Canada and virtually never in the United States.

UCB General Punctuation

The Hungarian word for "quotation marks," macskaköröm, literally translates to "cat claws."

Punched card

A punched card is a storage medium. It contains information in the form of holes that are at precise locations on the card.

The first use of punched cards was in the Jacquard loom, which was used to make patterns in clothing material. The loom was invented by French technologist Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752-1834) in 1801 and simplified the process of making textiles with complex patterns. Encouraged by its success, Jacquard went on to make his major improvement, which was to use cards with punched holes to control cams that directed pattern weaving. By the 1830s many were in use.

Close-up of the 8 × 26 hole punched cards on a Jaquard loom

Jacquard's method of coding information for manual looms implies that a hole or its absence can correspond to an 'on or off' action - or to 0 and 1 in binary notation.

Jacquard's method became dominant in textile pattern making and the punch cards were soon adopted for use in other fields as well. The English inventor Charles Babbage, for example, adapted the cards as a control mechanism for his calculator.

The American statistician Herman Hollerith was issued US patent #395,791 for the 'Art of Applying Statistics' in 1889 for his punched card calculator. He was inspired by railway conductors using holes punched in different positions on a ticket to record traveler details such as gender and approximate age. Hollerith went on to be awarded a series of patents and is regarded as one of the seminal figures in the development of data processing.

Hollerith card as shown in the Railroad Gazette in 1895, with 12 rows and 24 columns
The principle of using punched cards or tape had to await the replacement of mechanical sensing by electronic computers and magnetic tape or discs before, in this much altered form, it could take a large part in the powered machine tool industry.

Source Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999.

Punch and Judy

Punch and Judy are characters in a traditional English puppet show, performed in a striped canvas booth at fairgrounds and at the seaside.

A traditional Punch and Judy booth, at Swanage, Dorset, England

The character of Mr Punch was developed from Pulcinella, a stock character of Commedia dell'arte. He shared the hooked nose and humped back of his Italian counterpart, but quickly became associated with a peculiarly English type of buffoon.

The figure who later became Mr. Punch made his first recorded appearance in England on May 9, 1662 at Covent Garden, London. It was performed by Italian puppet showman Pietro Gimonde, a.k.a. "Signor Bologna." May 9 is traditionally reckoned as Punch's UK birthday.

The diarist Samuel Pepys observed this May 9th marionette show featuring an early version of the Punch character in Covent Garden in London. He wrote: "Thence to see an Italian puppet play."

Plaque By Jack1956 - Self-photographed,  Wikipedia

Political satire was part of the "Punch and Judy" puppet shows of the seventeenth century in England. For the most part, puppetry was not an entertainment vehicle for children until recent years.

In the early 18th century, the marionette theatre starring Punch was at its height, with showman Martin Powell attracting sizable crowds at his Punch's Theatre at Covent Garden. Powell has been credited with being "largely responsible for the form taken by the drama of Punch and Judy."

By the end of the 18th century, Punch was also playing in Britain's American colonies, where even George Washington bought tickets for a show.

Marionette productions were expensive and cumbersome to mount and transport and in the latter half of the 18th century, they began to give way to glove-puppet shows, performed from within a narrow, lightweight booth by one puppeteer. These productions might travel through country towns or move from corner to corner along busy London streets, giving many performances in a single day. The character of Punch adapted to the new format, becoming an aggressive glove-puppet who could do outrageous—and often violent—things to the other characters. About this time, Punch's wife's name changed from "Joan" to "Judy."

A satirical British magazine called Punch was launched in 1841. It was named for the mischievous title character of the puppet show.

Punch (drink)

Punch is a general term for a beverage containing various mixed drinks, often including fruit, fruit juice, and/or alcohol.

Punch was introduced to England from India. It was so called because it was made up of five ingredients: lemon juice, sugar, tea, hot water, and arrack (an eastern spirit often made from rice) and punch or "punca" is the Sanskrit word for the numeral "5".

The Honorable Edward Russell, the First Lord of the Admiralty was wintering in late 1694 in the Spanish port of Cadiz . On Christmas Day, he hosted an extravagant party in the grounds of the local governor’s estate (Don Francesco de Velasco y Tovar), in which he used the fountain in his garden as a giant bowl for mixing his drinks. The recipe included 500 gallons of brandy, 25,000 lemons, 20 gallons of lime juice, and 1,300 pounds of sugar. Russell's bartender rowed about in a small boat, filling up the cups for the incredulous guests.

England's King George I liked to drink endless bowls of punch with his Chancellor of Exchequer Robert Walpole .

Gentlemen enjoying punch in about 1765, by William Hogarth

In the 1810s, cold green tea punches, heavily spiked with alcohol were popular in England. One example was Regent's Punch, named after Prince George, was acting as regent for his senile father King George III.

The first publication of a bartender's guide, which listed recipes for various punches, was made in America in 1862.

Hawaiian Punch was originally created in 1934 as an ice cream topping.

Punxsutawney Phil is the name of a groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who according to tradition emerges from his burrow on February 2 (Groundhog Day) every year. If it is cloudy he emerges from his burrow, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, and the groundhog sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter can be expected. Punxsutawney Phil is said to owe his longevity to drinking a magical punch in summer.

Punch (combat)

When Michelangelo was working as an apprentice, a fellow student Pietro Torrigiano took a dislike to his arrogant ways. Torrigiano punched Michelangelo's nose so hard he virtually flattened it. Torrigiano later boasted that he left his signature on the great man's face.

Sir Isaac Newton's college notebooks contained a coded list of his childhood sins, which included punching his sister.

In 1870, British boxing champ Jim Mace and American boxer Joe Coburn fought for three hours and 48 minutes without landing one punch.

Oscar Wilde was surprisingly physically strong. At Oxford University when a gang of students tried to beat him he up he booted out the first, virtually knocked out the second with a punch, threw out the third through the air then carried the fourth downstairs and buried him beneath his own furniture.

In a 1917 game against the Washington Senators, Boston Red Sox pitcher Ernie Shore retired 26 batters in a row after replacing Babe Ruth, who had been ejected for punching the umpire.

On October 18, 1926, Harry Houdini was talking to a group of students in his dressing room after a lecture in Montreal and he commented on the strength of his stomach muscles and their ability to withstand hard blows. Suddenly, one of the students punched Houdini twice in the stomach.
The magician hadn't had time to prepare, and the blows ruptured his appendix. He fell ill on the train to Detroit, and, after performing one last time, was hospitalized. Doctors operated on him, but to no avail. The burst appendix poisoned his system and he died of peritonitis twelve days later.

Among Ernest Hemingway's many injuries was a finger gashed to the bone in an accident with a punching ball.

The actress Rita Hayworth packed a real punch: she knocked out two of co-star Glenn Ford's teeth during a fight scene in the movie Gilda.

The actor Liam Neeson used to be a teacher, but got fired for punching a 15-year-old pupil when the boy pulled a knife out in class.

David Bowie's right pupil was permanently dilated as a result of his friend George Underwood punching him in the eye while the pair were still at school. The fight was over a girl.

Mike Tyson has cared for pigeons throughout his life. The first punch he ever threw was when he was child and directed at a bully that killed one of his birds.

Claude Monet's 1874 painting Argenteuil Basin With A Single Sail Boat needed two years of repairs after a man punched a hole through it in 2012.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Master John Ozuna has the fastest martial arts punch in the world, clocking in at 43.3 miles per hour.

If you are attacked by a shark, you are advised to punch at its eyes, snout and gills (on the sides of the head, ahead of the pectoral fins). Play dead and the shark will think you are a free lunch.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017



In the 16th and early 17th-centuries a pumpkin was called a 'pompon' or 'pompion'. The word 'pumpkin' was first used in 1647.

The name "pumpkin" originated from "pepon", the Greek word for "large melon."

Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.

When early settlers arrived in America, they discovered that Native Americans were growing and using pumpkins. They roasted strips of pumpkin over an open fire for food.

Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.

In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.

Halloween pumpkin carving stems from a Celtic tradition of turnip carving to ward off evil spirits. The "head" of turnips were used, with the belief that the head was the most powerful part of the body, containing the spirit and the knowledge. However, it wasn't until 1866 that the pumpkin became associated with Halloween - a tradition originating from North America, where pumpkins were readily available and much larger, making them easier to carve.

On the morning of October 8, 1997, Cornell students, faculty and staff strolling by McGraw Tower noted an unusual sight: a 60 pound pumpkin impaled on the spire 173 feet up. To this day, no one is really sure how this was accomplished without anyone noticing.


Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and New York are the four major pumpkin growing states, together producing 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkin in 2008.

A pumpkin patch in Winchester, Oregon

Morton, Illinois calls itself the 'Pumpkin Capital of the World' and holds an annual pumpkin festival in the second week of September.

Nestlé, operating under the brand name Libby's, produces 85% of the world's canned pumpkin at their plant in Morton, Illinois.


In the United States and Canada, pumpkin is a popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple. Pumpkin pie was among the dishes at the first Thanksgiving.

Commercially canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie fillings are usually made from different kinds of winter squash than the pumpkins frequently carved as jack-o'-lanterns for decoration around Halloween.

Pumpkin flowers are edible. In the southwestern United States and Mexico they are used to garnish dishes, and they may be dredged in a batter then fried in oil.

Pumpkin leaves are a popular vegetable in the Western and central regions of Kenya; they are called seveve, and are an ingredient of mukimo respectively, whereas the pumpkin itself is usually boiled or steamed.

Raw pumpkin can be fed to poultry, as a supplement to regular feed, during the winter to help maintain egg production, which usually drops off during the cold months.

Canned pumpkin is often recommended by veterinarians as a dietary supplement for cats and dogs and cats that are experiencing certain digestive ailments such as constipation, diarrhea, or hairballs. The high fiber content helps to aid proper digestion.


Pumpkins are 90% water, which means they are a great low-calorie food.

Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.

Pumpkin seeds are a popular snack, which are a good source of protein, magnesium, copper and zinc.


According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 1,678 kg (3,699 lb). It was made by New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers (USA) at New Bremen Pumpkinfest in New Bremen, Ohio (about an hour north of Dayton) on September 25, 2010. The diameter of the pie was 6 m (20 ft). The crust was made of 440 sheets of dough and the filling ingredients were canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, salt, sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin spice. It was baked in a custom pie pan before before being served up into approximately 5,000 slices for hungry community members.

The farthest distance a pumpkin was fired is 5,545.43 ft using the Big 10 Inch air cannon in Utah, USA in 2010.

The world record for pumpkin pie eating is 20lb 13oz in eight minutes, set by Matt Stonie in 2014 at the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival.

The Guinness Book of World Records states that the fastest time to carve a face into a pumpkin was achieved by David Finkle of the United Kingdom. Finkle accomplished the feat on October 7, 2010, while filming a Halloween show for the BBC in 20.1 seconds.

Mathias Willemijns of Belgium grew the heaviest ever pumpkin. It was weighed at the Giant Pumpkin European Championship was held in Ludwigsburg, located in southwestern Germany, at 1.190,5 Kg. (or around 2,623 pounds) on October 9, 2016, This huge pumpkin was then turned into thousands of pounds of delicious pumpkin pie.