Another stange story from the tabloids.

Well today’s story is another headline from the tabloids, this time a Florida newspaper. The headline reads: “Man who suffers from ‘Popeye deformity’ after fall in Wal-Mart, is awarded $1.3million”.

Tom Papakalodukas, a Port St Lucie, Florida resident,  In 2011, while shopping in his local Wal-Mart store, slipped on a sign that had fallen off a display. If you look at the second photo you can see a surveillance photo of him falling in the store, the first photo was taken after Mr Papakalodukas was released from the emergency room. Papakalodukas was left with a lifelong defect called a “Popeye deformity”, which created abnormal bulges in his arm. His attorney only asked for $600,000 in damages, but the jury awarded Mr Papakalodukas more than double that figure (I hope the extra was so he could change his name to Smith..) His lawyer said “We are very grateful for a jury system in this country that will allow a small local law firm like mine, and an individual, to be able to level the playing field and come in here to have a fair trial against a large corporation like Wal-Mart. Papakalodukas added “It’s tough, l just try to take it day by day. Hopefully, I’ll heal this time and get my life back together, l have slipped on a sign before you know”….. ummmmm  if I were the judge, after those words of wisdom,  I would “NOT” rest my case.


The very English Sandwich..or is it?

Today’s photo shows the very English “afternoon tea sandwich” the typical contents are ham and mustard, cucumber, and smoked salmon. The sandwich, after all, was invented by an Englishman –The story goes that The 4th Earl of Sandwich, in 1765, was attending a card-game tournament. He was hungry, but wanted to continue playing while eating, so he needed both hands to stay clean and he needed one hand free to hold up the cards. So he told one of the servants to fetch him some slices of roast beef and put them between two slices of bread. The other royals noted this and eventually started ordering “what the Earl of Sandwich came up with”. Eventually they just started calling it a sandwich. And thus was born the sandwich. But here’s the thing, a sandwich can actually be traced back to the 1st century: The first recorded sandwich was by the famous rabbi, Hillel the Elder, who lived during the 1st century B.C. He started the Passover custom of sandwiching a mixture of chopped nuts, apples, spices, between two matzohs to eat with wine. The filling between the matzohs served as a reminder of the suffering of the Jews before their deliverance from Egypt and represented the mortar used by the Jews in their forced labor of constructing Egyptian buildings. Because he was the first known person to do this, and because of his influence and stature in Palestinian Judaism, this practice was added to the Seder and the Hillel Sandwich was named after him. OK so you can argue that is was not made of bread as we know it – lets go forward to the 6th century: During the Middle Ages, thick blocks of coarse stale bread called trenchers were used in place of plates. Meats and other foods were piled on top of the bread to be eaten with their fingers and sometimes with the aid of knives. The trenchers, thick and stale, absorbed the juice, the grease, and the sauces. At the end of the meal, one either ate the trencher or, if hunger had been satisfied, tossed the gravy-soaked bread to their dogs or given as alms to less fortunate or poor human. Alms were clothing, food, or money that is given to poor people: In the past, people thought it was their religious duty to give alms to the poor. Trenchers were clearly the forerunner of our open-face sandwiches. So the name sandwich may have arrived into our vocabulary from the 4th Earl of Sandwich, but the idea of the sandwich happed well before he was born.  By the way the sandwich was introduced to America by Englishwoman Elizabeth Leslie (1787-1858). In her 1840 cookbook, issued in America, she had a recipe for ham sandwiches. Her suggestion was: Cut some thin slices of bread very neatly, having slightly buttered them; and, if you choose, spread on a very little mustard. Have ready some very thin slices of cold boiled ham, and lay them between two slices of bread. You may either roll them up, or lay them flat on the plates.


Only in the UK tabloid press.

Found this headline in a UK tabloid newspaper…Do they wheelie need to know? Council asks residents if they’re gay in a survey about bins “As well as questions about recycling reward schemes and bin storage, resident were asked if they were heterosexual, gay or bisexual. Residents have told Birmingham council to mind its own business after being quizzed about their sexuality – in a wheelie bin (trash can) survey. They were stunned after receiving the online questionnaire. As well as questions about recycling reward schemes and bin storage they were asked if they were heterosexual, gay or bisexual. Dave Dixon, 34, who got the email, fumed: “It does not ask if residents want such bins but is very interested in their sexual orientation.” And former Tory councellor Peter Smallbone said: “It’s typical pointless left wing nonsense.” Householder Cyril Mayers, 40, added: “What the hell has sexual orientation or religion got to do with wheelie bins? Mind your own business.” Birmingham city council claimed it was a standard monitoring question. A spokesman said: “Although we do ask those questions, as part of the effort to make the feedback as informed as possible, you will have also noticed that ‘prefer not to say’ is an option to every question in that part of the survey.” It is not the first time the blundering council has been a laughing stock. Last summer it commissioned a statue of British Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt doing his victory pose – but got it the wrong way around. In 2008 it used a picture of Birmingham, Alabama, on 360,000 leaflets and in 2010 it misspelt Birmingham on polling cards.



The Winchester “Mystery” House

Today a story about the Winchester Mystery House, which is a mansion located in San Jose, California. It was the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester. So why was it built, what is the history behind it and why was it called the Winchester “mystery” house?

In 1884 Sarah Winchesters husband passed away in New Haven, Connecticut, leaving his wife, Sarah to grieve not only the loss of her husband, but also earlier that year the loss of her only child. Sarah consulted a medium in Boston who told her she had to leave her house in New Haven and travel West. Here she must build a home for herself and for the spirits of all the people who had fallen (been killed) by the guns produced from her husband’s company (Winchester rifles).Additionally she must make sure that construction on the new home never stops as this is the only way she would be able to appease the spirit world. If you continue building, you will live forever. But if you stop, then you will die.  And so Sarah Winchester moved to San Jose in Northern California, and work started in 1884 on her mansion at 525, South Winchester Boulevard. Construction was continuous for 38 years without interruption, until Sarah Winchesters death on the 5th September, 1922. Sarah Winchester made sure she had the day to day guidance on the building construction from day one. There was no master plan, and the mansion has staircases that go nowhere, doors that are inaccessible, and secret passages everywhere. The cost for the mansion, and for the having construction workers on-site 365 days of the year, is estimated to be $5.5 million, which today would be over $75 million.

When Sarah Winchester died, all of her possessions (apart from the house) were bequeathed to her niece and personal secretary. Her niece then took everything she wanted and sold the rest in a private auction. It took six trucks working eight hours a day for six weeks, to remove all of the furniture from the home. Mrs.Winchester made no mention of the mansion in her will, and appraisers considered the house worthless due to the damage caused by an earthquake, the unfinished design and the impractical nature of its construction. It was sold at auction to a local investor for $135,000, and in February 1923, five months after Winchester’s death, it was opened to the public. Today the home is owned by Winchester Investments, and it retains unique touches that reflect Mrs Winchester’s beliefs and her reported preoccupation with warding off malevolent spirits. These spirits are said to have directly inspired her as to the way the house should be built. The number thirteen and spider web motifs, which carried spiritual significance for her, occur throughout the house. For example, an expensive imported chandelier that originally had 12 candle-holders was altered to accommodate 13 candles, wall clothes hooks are in multiples of 13, and a spider web-patterned stained glass window contains 13 colored stones. The sink’s drain covers also have 13 holes. Also, every Friday the 13th the large bell on the property is rung 13 times at 1 p.m. in tribute to Sarah Winchester. Photo 1 shows the mansion in 1894, photos 2,3, and 4 are more recent photos of the restored mansion.

house in 1890 17253305 Winchester-Mystery-House winchester-mystery-house 1

Did you know St Patrick wasn’t Irish?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.. the day celebrates the Roman Catholic feast day of the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick died on March 17, 461. But did you know that he wasn’t even Irish – He was British….

Patrick’s birthname was Maewyn. He was born in Roman Britain. He was kidnapped into slavery and brought to Ireland. He escaped to a monastery in Gaul (France) and converted to Christianity. He went back to Ireland in 432 as a missionary. While Christianity had already taken hold in the country, tradition has it that Patrick confronted the Druids at Tara and abolished their pagan rites, making Christianity more widespread. Patrick became a bishop and after his death was named Ireland’s patron saint. Celebrations in Ireland were understated though. Eighteenth century Irish soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War held the first St. Patrick Day parades. . When the Irish emigrated to the U.S., they created the bigger celebrations and parades known today. The celebrations became a way for the Irish to connect with their roots after they moved to America.

Fun Facts associated with St Patricks Day:

The shamrock: According to legend St. Patrick used the three leaf clover (or shamrock) to explain the Trinity.

Dyeing the river green: The practice of dyeing the river green started in Chicago in 1962, when city officials decided to dye a portion of the Chicago River green.

Corn beef and cabbage: This is an Irish American dish. Irish Americans were so poor they could not afford certain meals. On St. Patrick’s Day, the best meal they could afford was beef and cabbage. It became a staple for the holiday.

If you look at the link below it’s a web cam showing the Temple Bar (pub) in Dublin, there are really enjoying themselves…

Chicago River on Saint Patricks Day imagesCAAPX5AU

The Only Unsolved Air Piracy Case in American Aviation History

Apologies in advance as It’s a long story today, but I think an interesting one – It’s about a man called Dan Cooper (photo 1), who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft between Portland and Seattle on the 24th November 1971, he obtained $200,00 in ransom, and parachuted from the aircraft to an uncertain fate. Despite an extensive manhunt and an ongoing FBI investigation, the perpetrator, to this day, has never been located or positively identified. The case remains the only unsolved air piracy in American aviation history. The event began mid-afternoon on Thanksgiving Eve, November 24, 1971, at Portland Internatonal Airport in Oregon. A man carrying a black attaché case approached the flight counter of Northwest Orient Airlines. He identified himself as “Dan Cooper” and purchased a one-way ticket on Flight 305, a 30-minute trip to Seattle, Washington. Flight 305, was only a third full, and took off on schedule at 2:50 pm, local time. Cooper passed a note to Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant situated nearest to him in a jumpsteat attached to the aft stair door. Schaffner, assuming the note contained a lonely businessman’s phone number, dropped it unopened into her purse. Cooper leaned toward her and whispered, “Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb”. And so the hijacking began. The note was printed in neat, capital letters with a felt pen. It read, “I have a bomb in my briefcase. I will use it if necessary. I want you to sit next to me. You are being hijacked.” Schaffner did as requested, then, quietly asked to see the bomb. Cooper cracked open his briefcase long enough for her to glimpse eight red cylinders (“four on top of four”) attached to wires coated with red insulation, and a large cylindrical battery. After closing the briefcase, he dictated his demands: $200,000 in “negotiable American currency” four parachutes (two primary and two reserve); and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the aircraft upon arrival. Schaffner conveyed Cooper’s instructions to the cockpit; The pilot, William Scott, contacted Seattle Air Traffic Control, which in turn informed local and federal authorities.

FBI agents assembled the ransom money from several Seattle-area banks—10,000 unmarked 20-dollar bills, and made a microfilm photograph of each of them. Cooper rejected the military-issue parachutes initially offered by authorities, demanding instead civilian parachutes with manually operated ripcords. Seattle police obtained them from a local skydiving school. At 5:24 pm Cooper was informed that his demands had been met, and at 5:39 pm the aircraft landed at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Cooper instructed Captain Scott to taxi the jet to an isolated, brightly lit section of the tarmacand extinguish lights in the cabin to deter police snipers. Northwest Orient’s Seattle operations manager  approached the aircraft in street clothes (to avoid the possibility that Cooper might mistake his airline uniform for that of a police officer) and delivered the cash-filled knapsack and parachutes to Cooper via the aft stairs. (Photo 2 shows the aft stairs on the Boeing 727 aircraft). Once the delivery was completed Cooper permitted all passengers, Schaffner, and senior flight attendant Alice Hancock to leave the plane. During refueling Cooper outlined his flight plan to the cockpit crew: a southeast course toward Mexico City at the minimum airspeed possible without stalling the aircraft (approximately 100 knots (190 km/h; 120 mph)) at a maximum 10,000 foot (3,000 m) altitude. He further specified that the wheels remain down in the takeoff/landing position, the wing flaps be lowered 15 degrees, and the cabin remain unpressurized. He also advised them that after take-off he would be lowering the aft stairs. After takeoff Cooper told Mucklow to join the rest of the crew in the cockpit and remain there with the door locked. As she complied, Mucklow observed Cooper tying something around his waist.  At approximately 8:00 pm a warning light flashed in the cockpit, indicating that the aft air stair apparatus had been activated. The crew’s offer of assistance via the aircraft’s intercom system was curtly refused. The crew soon noticed a subjective change of air pressure, indicating that the aft door was open. At approximately 8:13 pm the aircraft’s tail section sustained a sudden upward movement, significant enough to require trimming to bring the plane back to level flight. At approximately 10:15 pm Captain Scott landed the 727, with the aft air stair still deployed, at Reno Airport. FBI agents, state troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and Reno police surrounded the jet, as it had not yet been determined with certainty that Cooper was no longer aboard; but an armed search quickly confirmed that he was gone.

In 1972/3 and 4, extensive searches were made all along the aircrafts flight path, but nothing was found. In 1978 a placard containing instructions for lowering the aft stairs of a 727, later verified to be from the hijacked airliner, was found by a deer hunter near a logging road about 13 miles (21 km) east of Castle Rock, Washington, within the basic path of Flight 305. Then in February 1980 an eight-year-old boy named Brian Ingram, vacationing with his family on the Columvia River about 9 miles (15 km) downstream from Vancouver, Washington, uncovered three packets of the ransom cash, significantly disintegrated but still bundled in rubber bands, as he raked the sandy riverbank to build a campfire. FBI technicians confirmed that the money was indeed a portion of the ransom. But no trace of Cooper was ever found. The FBI has argued from the beginning that Cooper did not survive his jump. “Diving into the wilderness without a plan, without the right equipment, in such terrible conditions, as there was low cloud, heavy rain and near freezing temperatures, he probably never even got his ‘chute open.” Even if he did land safely, agents contend, survival in the mountainous terrain would have been all but impossible without an accomplice at a predetermined landing point, which would have required a precisely timed jump, necessitating, cooperation from the flight crew, which was never requested.  And so the hijacking remains unsolved to this day. Oh by the way, in 1986 the FBI released the money that Brian Ingram had found 6 years earlier (well it was split between Brian and the Northwest Airlines insurance company).

DBCooper Rwr727tail


Today Hiccups and Yawning.

Today we follow on from Wednesdays blog on sneezing and coughing to see why we hiccup and yawn. Well like the beating of your heart, your diaphragm and lungs have a smooth involuntary repetitive action cycle to them, you don’t always have to remember to breath, right?. Your body is hard-wired to breath at a certain rate, causing your lungs and diaphragm to contract at intervals. So hiccups are caused when the action cycle on your diaphragm is put it out of sync with the involuntary contractions of your lungs. It happens when your lungs and ribs contract to pull in air at the same moment that your diaphragm relaxes which would push out air, and that smacking together of the muscles is what we call a hiccup. That is why to cure hiccups, we hold our breath, or drink water for a certain period of time. By stopping our ability to breath, we push the metaphorical reset button on our lungs and diaphragm, re-syncing the muscles.

That’s hiccups dealt with, so why do we yawn? As mentioned above, breathing brings oxygen into our lungs which then oxygenates our red blood cells that then takes the oxygen to the rest of our bodies for a variety of purposes: to clear away lactic acid build up in our muscles, get rid of muscle cramps, improve physical and brain function, to turn into energy, and a variety of other processes. We need oxygen to live. When you finally go to sleep, your body doesn’t, your heart keeps beating, and you keep breathing, often deeper in your sleep. That’s because when you sleep, your muscles and your brain are resting, while your body refuels them with oxygen for the next day, clearing away any buildup of waste and healing you while you sleep. When you’re tired, your body isn’t getting enough oxygen. A yawn is your body’s attempt at a quick refresh and awakening by pulling in a lot of oxygen to rejuvenate your brain, improve it’s function and blood flow.
So the next time you’re in a deep conversation with somebody and they yawn, don’t say “Am I boring you”, say “thank you,” because it’s a compliment to you. Your conversation is so interesting and complex that they need to increase oxygen and their brains’ function to understand everything you’re saying.

hiccup-3 man_yawning

Did you know there was an English Pope.

Yesterday millions of people all over the world watched live on TV as Cardinal elect Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina because Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church worldwide. Of the 267 elected Pope’s, he is the first non European Pope, the majority of previous Pope’s have been from Italy, but there was one Pope who came from England..So today a little history lesson on Pope Hadrian IV from England.

He was born Nicholas Breakspear on the 1st September 1100, in Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, England. His father was a monk in St Albans, and Nicholas received his early education at the Abbey School in St Albans.  Nicholas asked his father if he could be admitted into the monastery, but he was told to “wait and go on with his schooling” which his father felt was more suitable. Nicholas did not wait and went instead to Paris, and finally became a Cannon of the cloister of St Rufus monastery in Arles, which is in the south of France. He rose to become a prior, and soon after was elected as Abbot of St Rufus. His reforming zeal as Abbot led to the lodging of complaints against him in Rome, but this merely attracted favorable attention from Pope Eugene III who created him Cardinal Bishop of Albano (Italy) in December 1149. From 1152 to 1154 the Pope sent Nicholas to Scandinavia as “Papal Legate”, organizing the affairs of the new Norwegian Archbishop of Trondheim. On his return to Rome in 1154, Nicholas was received with great honour by the Pope, and upon the Pope’s death, Nicholas was elected as Pope on the 3rd December 1154, taking the name Pope Hadrian IV. His papacy ended on the 1st September 1159 upon his death, which is shrouded in mystery… His death was reported as due to choking on a fly in his wine; however the probable cause was by complication of tonsillitis called quinsy, which incidentally is what George Washington is believed to have died from. Hope you enjoyed today’s history lesson, have a great Afternoon America, and a Good Evening GB, saw on the BBC news that the wintry weather is due to return in a few days! keep the hot water bottles handy.


Why do we close our eyes when we sneeze?

Why is almost absolutely impossible to sneeze with your eyes open? Well the medical term for a sneeze is a “sternutatory reflex”. A sneeze is a beautiful thing, it’s your body’s way of protecting you by expelling any dangerous particles it senses in your nasal cavity. A sneeze protects you from foreign particles, and this defensive play is aimed at your nose. When we breath in through our nose the little hairs and mucous membrane inside the nose catch any offending particles that are too big or don’t belong in the lungs, like a safety net. When we blow our noses and mucous comes out, that’s one way of cleaning out the nose. But sometimes, bad particles get deep in the net of our nose which then sends a message to the lungs of “Danger! Beware!” Our lungs then, breathe in through our mouths and “Achoo!” It shoots air out through the nose and mouth at speeds of up to 100mph, sending away any offending particles and clearing the nose area completely. So why do most people automatically close their eyes when sneezing? Basically during a sneeze, tremendous stress is placed on the body and considerable air pressure is place upon the eyes. This pressure is not enough to pop your eyes out of your head or even make them bulge out, but enough to make your eyes feel uncomfortable from the added pressure. The brain therefore triggers most us to close our eyes automatically when we sneeze in order to keep the eyes from “extruding”. l say most of us close our eyes because ssome people can sneeze with their eyes open. We have no control over whether or not we close our eyes when we sneeze. 95% of us have the reflex from the brain that closes our eyes, that leaves 5% who don’t have the reflex, so when they sneeze their eyes won’t close.  A cough is very similar to a sneeze, as it’s the lungs way of dealing with any foreign particle trying to enter the lungs. We cough is when our body senses something liquid or solid pushing to get into the lungs. Our lungs close off their opening, tense up, and push back, Boom! a Cough bursts forth, pushing all the air in your lungs at the intruding object or liquid sending it into your mouth or throat, where you can decide to swallow it or spit it out. The perfect defense mechanism to protect the lungs.


A New Attraction In Liverpool.

There’s a new tourist attraction in Liverpool, England, it’s called the Williamson Tunnels, and consists of a labyrinth of tunnels in the “Edge Hill” area of Liverpool, which were built under the direction of an eccentric businessman called Joseph Williamson between 1805 and 1840. They remained derelict, filled with rubble and refuse, until an archaeological investigation was carried out in 1995. Since then excavations have been carried out, and are still ongoing, which has opened part of the labyrinth of tunnels to the public as a heritage centre.

So why to Joseph Williamson build the tunnels? To be honest there is no defining answer, all that is know is from 1805 Joseph Williamson (See photo 1) acquired an area of land in the Edge Hill area of Liverpool that was then a largely undeveloped outcrop of sandstone with a scattering of scars from small-scale quarrying on it. He started to build houses on the land, they were eccentric in design and without any rational plan. The houses he built always had a large garden at the back that sloped downwards, so he built arched terraces over which the gardens could be extended, and under the arches were the starting of his tunnel empire…The random tunnel-building continued until Williamson’s death in 1840, and in 1867 a Liverpool newspaper described the tunnels as being a “great nuisance” because drains ran into them, filling them will offensive water… As mentioned, in 1995 excavations began to uncover the tunnels, and they seems to be built in a rectangular shape, however their full extent is not known and many of them are still blocked by rubble. They vary in size from a “Banqueting Hall Tunnel” which is about 70 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 20 feet high, to smaller tunnels which are only 4 feet wide and 6 feet high, but all of them are extremely well built and have fully bricked walls (see photos 2 and 3). As Williamson was so secretive about his motives to build the tunnels, there are lots of theories, the main speculation being that he was a member of an extremist religious sect fearing the end of the world was near, and the tunnels were built to provide refuge for himself and his followers. The only explanation that Williamson gave when asked why his workers were building the tunnels, his answer was “All of my workers receive a weekly wage and are thus enabled to enjoy the blessing of charity without the attendant curse of stifled self respect”. In other words his prime motive was the “employment of the poor”. Who knows, as the excavate more of his tunnels they made find out the real answer. If they dig far enough they may find another tunnel under the River Mersey!!

JW corner_tunnel_02 corner_tunnel_01

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