Thursday, May 29, 2008

You think you have problems department: no flush in space

International Space Station astronauts are eagerly awaiting the arrival of shuttle Discovery since it'sbringing a new pump to mend their broken toilet.

I bet they are! Can you imagine no flushing mechanism in space?

The station's urine collection unit, as opposed to its solid waste unit, has been malfunctioning for several days. NASA said it thought a separator pump was at fault and the three male crew members were operating it manually.

To make room for the new part, NASA has had to remove other equipment from the shuttle, which launches on Saturday.

"Clearly, having a working toilet is a priority for us," shuttle payload manager Scott Higginbotham said.

The Discovery mission is the second of three to take up key components of the Japanese-built Kibo laboratory.

Read the full story here:

It goes without saying that a working toilet is an absolute necessity, given the gravity situation. One wonders what and how they are disposing of the urine. One shudders to think...

Thought du jour: if a person flushes in space, does anyone hear it?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gloucester cheese chase was downhill all the way

They came, they ran and when it was all over, the biggest cheese chaser (say that fast a dozen times) was 19-year old, Christopher Anderson. He took first place - and a back brace for his efforts - in the annual Bank Holiday Cheese Rolling Contest at Cooper's Hill. One might ask the reason for people chasing after a circle of giant Gloucester. Go know but the prize being a big chunk of cheese certainly must be some inspiration.

The challenge was even greater given the weather conditions being less than satisfactory with a torrential rain pelting down. Approximately 3000 specatators cheered on the cheese chasers with contestants coming as far away as Australia, New Zealand and Japan attempting to climb Coopers Hill and then sliding down after their fromage.

Photos of the contestants in action here:

Writers & Friends

Monday, May 26, 2008

There's gold in them thar California hills...again

Price of gas got you bloated? Running a little short of cash? You might consider visiting or even moving to California where there's a new Gold Rush, 160 years after gold fever struck.

It hit a new high of in excess of US$1000 per ounce earlier in the year and some believe there is money to be made from this precious mineral once more.

"You can pay your bills, if you live meagrely," says John Gurney, who gave up his job six months ago to become a full-time gold prospector.

John is standing in a shallow river in Jamestown, California, in the heart of Gold Country: in 1849, the same dream brought hundreds of thousands of people to towns like this.

He is panning for gold: he shovels rocks and dirt from the river bed into a bucket, sifts out the bigger pieces, transfers what's left into a ridged plastic panning bowl, and then, using a light movement back and forth, shakes the bowl, separating the lighter material from the heavier, including gold.

Each 20-minute session usually turns up a few tiny flecks.

"It's not a lot of money," John says, "but it adds up quite a bit... But you never know - you may hit the jackpot sometime."

This is the simplest way of gold prospecting.

The original 49ers - as they've become known - used this technique, as well as mining. Fortunes were made - and lost - in the wild towns that sprang up almost overnight along 200 miles of central California, an area they called the Motherlode.

Tourism is big business in the former gold-mining areas. Places like Jamestown and Columbia - which, in its heyday, nearly became California's state capital - have been mining tourists ever since. But now these ghost towns are stirring again, as more and more amateur prospectors try their luck.

Read the full story here:

Given the precarious financial situation with people losing homes and no income, perhaps gold fever will strike again.

Writers & Friends

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Something definitely cheesy afoot

Cheese lovers rejoice! The annual Cheese Race to take place in Gloucestershire, will go on rain or no rain.

Well that's good news. I mean, nothing should stop people from taking a perfectly good and tasty chunk of Gloucestershire cheese and rolling it down a hill. Why? Go know! However, the event must have something going for it since it's more than 200 years old.

The event is more than a little cheesy if you ask me but here are the details so you can plan to attend.

Organisers of the annual cheese- rolling event in Gloucestershire have insisted that it will go ahead on Monday whatever the weather. In the event participants chase a 7lb Double Gloucester cheese in four races at Cooper's Hill, near Brockworth. BBC weatherman Ian Fergusson said: "The steep slope at Cooper's Hill, which is challenging even in good weather, will prove especially slippery and muddy."

In 2007, several people were injured during the event. Safety concerns led to it being called off in 2006 after rescue volunteers were unable to assist as they had been called to help with the aftermath of an earthquake. The race has been held at Cooper's Hill for the last 200 years and is believed to date back to Roman times. The winner of each race gets to keep the Double Gloucester.

Anyone can enter if one feels so inclined and according to the official site, the rules are simple:
"You do not need any type of application form to enterThere are no qualifications and no entry fee! All you have to do is arrive at the top of the hill, make the decision (possibly check that your 'Last will and testament ' is up-to-date!) make sure that you won't need that pair of jeans ever again and ......... GO!!!!"

That's good news - no fee, mind you who would pay to enter is another whole issue, here.

Rumor - and keep it mind it's strictly a rumor here - has it that some owners of local cafes have been seen under the cover of night, collecting the cheese remnants and using it for the next daily special being macaroni and cheese.

Here's the official site for the contest:

Writers & Friends

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Shocking news - truffles in danger!

by Eleanor Tylbor

Directly from France (where else!) where things like this are tres important comes the devastating and shocking news that - wait for it - truffles are in danger of being wiped out!

Mon Dieu! Pas possible!

But yes it's true! So if you're a truffle lover...or liker...or even someone who occasionally indulges in a few truffles, you might be out of luck. Just to clarify we're not talking about the chocolate type with a gazillion calories. It's the kind that only piggies can find in certain geographical locations.

Mais oui!

Narrowing it down further, the Perigort Black Truffle to be exact and the cause is an alien interloping Chinese truffle.

Uh-oh...! Call in the gendarmes or french borner patrol!

Scientists fear it will be wiped out by an invading Chinese truffle they have discovered growing in European soils. Hmmmm... I smell if you'll excuse the pun, a plot afoot - or a-nose. Perhaps yet another means in which to introduce cheaper truffles and spoil the truffle market.

According to people who know about these things who then informed New Phytologist journal, the incomer is a particularly aggressive and fast-growing species.The Perigord black truffle is one of the most highly regarded truffles, fetching around 600 to 800 Euros per kg this season.

"It is the most famous and appreciated among the black truffles, and is the most important truffle in French cuisine," says Claude Murat, a fungus expert based at the University of Torino, Italy.

Somehow, when somebody uses the term "fungus" even though it is referring to a gourmet item, my mind switches to less savory images. Toe nails for example but I digress.

Only Piedmont white truffles fetch higher prices. Hey - we all knew that! Right?

Read the entire story here: upset are you regarding this...this shocking news???? More to the point, would you know the difference between one truffle and another?

Perhaps it would be a good idea the next time you're dining out at a fast food restaurant and truffles are on the menu, you might want to think twice. I mean, one just never knows, does one?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Sometimes it's the hiccups in life that get you

Most people at some point in their life acquire a case of hiccups. Although personally aggravating to the hiccup-er and somewhat unnerving to onlookers, most cases of hiccups disappear within minutes. Then there are unusual cases where a case of hiccups can linger for longer. A lot longer.

Take the case of musician, Brian Sands, 24, who has had a severe case of the ailment for 15 months and is hoping that an operation will cure him. He hiccups as often as every 2 seconds and in his sleep on occasion.

Nothing has worked so far in the way of a cure including hypnosis and yoga, and physicians at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre will place a tube into his stomach to monitor acid levels and decide if surgery is feasible.

To make matters worse - or crucial - Sands is a backup singer in the group, Ebullient and the condition is not conducive to his chosen field. In fact he has only been able to perform 4 times.

Sands thinks his problem stems from an acid reflux condition caused by a damaged valve in his stomach.

"If the acid levels are severe enough they are going to do keyhole surgery and grab part of my stomach and wrap it around the valve to tighten it," he said.
When you've had them this long it really drains you, because you can't eat properly and can't sleep properly."

It's always the hiccups of life that'll get you every time, so read about Mr. Sands angst here:

Writers & Friends

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Les baguettes from UK...Lego tower sets record...

Now for something completely different: a Yorkshire (UK) baker is supplying baguettes to discriminating French caterers and restaurants. This comes as quite a surprise to any visitor to France - including moi - who is under the impression that when it comes to crispy baguettes - France has it in the basket, so to speak. However...what you sees isn't necessarily what you gets.

France may be famed for its fabulous bread but a British baker has secured a surprising contract - to ship thousands of loaves across the channel.

The baker, Fosters, will be sending bread to les francaise to make croque monsieur, a hot ham and cheese snack.

It is not the first request from France for the baking firm, based in the South Yorkshire town of Barnsley.

"I nearly fell off my chair laughing," said director John Foster. "Asking a Brit to make French sticks?"

They will ship some 7,000 soft white loaves for use in toasted sandwiches to France every few months.

Read the whole story here:

Fosters Bakery - the suppliers also have a site here:


Lego in as far as children and probably their parents given the popularity of the blocks are concerned, is the ideal toy to stimulate the imagination. A 100ft tower made out of Lego bricks will be verified as an official world record, organisers hope.

Thousands of children and their families used almost 500,000 bricks to build the structure at the Legoland theme park in Windsor, Berkshire. The tower is designed to resemble a Viking longboat mast to mark the opening of the new Land of the Vikings. It is yet to officially verified, but the next biggest Lego tower is just over 96ft built in Toronto last August.

The Viking mast tower was created over the Bank Holiday weekend with each of the top sections lifted into place with a crane.

Lego has recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the iconic brick

Rest of the story here:

Monday, May 05, 2008

In God We Trust. How Do You Spell That?

by Eleanor Tylbor
Perhaps he means well but somehow changing one's name to "In God We Trust" is bound to have interesting or at least humorous results. If the court allows him to do this.

Steve Kreuscher wants a judge to allow him to legally change his name. He wants to be known as "In God We Trust." Kreuscher says the new name would symbolize the help God gave him through tough times. The 57-year-old man also says he's worried that atheists may succeed in removing the phrase "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency. He recalls that the phrase "God Reigns" was removed from the Zion city seal in 1992 after Illinois courts deemed it unconstitutional. Zion was founded as a theocracy - by a sect that believed the Earth was flat. The school bus driver and amateur artist in the northern Chicago suburb says he has filed a petition to change his name in Lake County Circuit Court.


So let's say... this man or another man is allowed to change his name to In God We Trust.

Let's say... it's time for him to sign his signature.

(paying for food at restaurant)
Do you take major credit cards?

Of course, sir

IGWT Take this one(waiter walks away examining credit card. Returns a few minutes later)

Um... Sir... We seem to have a problem here

Oh? Did I put the wrong amount or something?

That's fine. Um... It's about your signature?

What about it?

You signed the motto written on a coin. I'm sure it was a mistake


We require a real name, sir.

In God We Trust!

I'm sure you do - we all do, sir. However, we need a real name

That is my real name

(Manager joins him)

Is there a problem here?

Your waiter won't accept my credit card!

That's right. I told him not to! Sir - we need a name. A real name! Not a political statement or something... In God We Trust cannot in any way be considered a name. So if you'll just show us some other piece of identification...

All my identification has In God We Trust. Do you believe in God?

What's that have to do with anything?

Well - do you?

My personal beliefs have nothing to do with the present situation at hand. How about paying with some cold cash, instead?IGWTSee? It's your "who cares" attitude that could cause "In God We Trust" to be removed from our coins!

So you admit that's not your real name! I knew it!

I beg your pardon! FYI - that IS my legal name! Here... I'll show you my driver's license...and my vehicle registration...

(reading pieces of identification)
Well, I thought I've seen it all! Forgive me sir. I was wrong and you're right! However, you must admit that this is a bit unusual

Let's just say it's my own personal political statementMANAGERFine with me. Now if you'll just sign the bill here... I can't seem to read your second name.

E Pluribus Unum. Is there a problem?

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Having the name Paris Hilton, and being in the spotlight, there's bound to be some negative reports off and on. That's life being Paris. However, being sued for being...Paris takes things to a whole new level.

The private claims that calling him Paris after the notorious heiress is “demeaning”.

Hylton, a chef with the Welsh Guards, is suing for race discrimination because he says other soldiers continued to call him “Paris”, even though officers ordered them to stop. His solicitor even wrote to Prince Charles, who is Colonel of the Welsh Guards, urging him to step down after letters to the regiment’s commanding officer detailing the allegations went unanswered.

Hylton, 33, says he finds the nickname offensive because he considers Paris Hilton – the wayward socialite belonging to the hotel dynasty – is “a white woman with a low reputation”.
He also claims that he was repeatedly called a string of racist names at his barracks in Birdcage Walk close to Buckingham Palace.

Hylton’s wife and children were also allegedly left in fear after a hate campaign in which locks on the doors at their married quarters were repeatedly superglued shut. At one stage Hylton, who was born in Jamaica, complains that an NCO who racially abused him had also punched him, leaving him requiring hospital treatment.

But he claims in legal papers submitted to Central London Employment Tribunal, which will hear his case next month, that he was the one who was arrested – and military police recorded his name in statements as Paris Hilton.

Hylton, from Woolwich, south-east London, says his ordeal has forced him out of his £22,000-a-year post and he is due to leave the Army next month.

The private is demanding £50,000 compensation from the Ministry of Defence, which denies his allegations and is vigorously contesting the case.

A spokesman for Prince Charles declined to comment.