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Archive for November, 2009

Ikea Heights Episode 4

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment
The Ikea multistory car park at Ikea, Birstall...

Image via Wikipedia

In this episode of the Ikea Burbank store melodrama, James’s brother is kidnapped and held for ransom, while a new couple think about moving into the neighbourhood. And as usual, a lot of  ordinary people are trying to do their shopping …. You can find the previous episodes here: Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3

Strange Random Language Fact:

The word trivia comes from the Latin trivium, which is the place where three roads meet, a public square. People would gather and talk about all sorts of matters, most of which were trivial.

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Judging a book by the back cover

November 29, 2009 Leave a comment
w:World's Biggest Bookstore

A blurb is a short summary or some words of praise accompanying a creative work, usually referring to the words on the back of the book but also commonly seen on DVD and video cases, web portals and news websites. (from Wikipedia)

If you’re thinking of buying someone a book for Christmas (or even perhaps as an early St. Jordi present) and are not sure what they want, you’ll probably end up reading the blurb on the back cover. To start your training, here are synopses and comments on two popular novels, taken from the UK online bookstore Waterstones. We’ve highlighted the most important words and structures in bold :-)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Image via Wikipedia

1 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Synopsis

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder – and that the killer is a member of his own tightly-knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves. A violent and bloody thriller; a sinister family saga; a mystery of massive financial fraud; an ambiguous and haunting love story – this is a genuinely complex and unique contribution to crime fiction.

Quotes

What a cracking novel! I haven’t read such a stunning thriller debut for years. Brilliantly written and totally grippingMinette Walters.
I doubt you will read a better book this year – Val McDermid.

Brilliantly written – the characters are superbly drawn and the story grips from first to last – Mail On Sunday.

Cover of

Cover of The Lost Symbol

2 – The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Synopsis

WHAT WAS LOST WILL BE FOUNDWashington DC: Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned at the last minute to deliver an evening lecture in the Capitol Building. Within moments of his arrival, however, a disturbing object – gruesomely encoded with five symbols – is discovered at the epicentre of the Rotunda. It is, he recognises, an ancient invitation, meant to beckon its recipient towards a long-lost world of hidden esoteric wisdom. When Langdon’s revered mentor, Peter Solomon – philanthropist and prominent mason – is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes that his only hope of saving his friend’s life is to accept this mysterious summons and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon finds himself quickly swept behind the facade of America’s most historic city into the unseen chambers, temples and tunnels which exist there. All that was familiar is transformed into a shadowy, clandestine world of an artfully-concealed past in which Masonic secrets and never-before-seen revelations seem to be leading him to a single impossible and inconceivable truth. A brilliantly composed tapestry of veiled histories, arcane icons and enigmatic codes, The Lost Symbol is an intelligent, lightning-paced thriller that offers surprises at every turn. For, as Robert Langdon will discover, there is nothing more extraordinary or shocking than the secret which hides in plain sight

Quotes

The wait is over. The Lost Symbol is here–and you don’t have to be a Freemason to enjoy it…THRILLING AND ENTERTAINING, LIKE THE EXPERIENCE ON A ROLLER COASTER‘ – Los Angeles Times

‘Dan Brown brings sexy back to a genre that had been left for dead…His code and clue-filled book is dense with exotica…amazing imagery…and the nonstop momentum that makes The Lost Symbol impossible to put down. SPLENDID…ANOTHER MIND-BLOWING ROBERT LANGDON STORY’ – Janet Maslin, New York Times

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Strange Random Language Fact:
The word “Checkmate” in chess comes from the Persian phrase “Shah Mat,” which means, “the King is Dead”

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Winter Poem

November 28, 2009 1 comment
cup of tea
Image by motograf via Flickr

Another personal masterpiece (he says modestly) from the template “Here come the seasons” at ETTC, which we featured last week!

Here comes winter,
Here comes winter,
cold weather, warm clothes
Here comes winter,
Here comes winter,
hot tea, cocoa and biscuits
Here comes winter,
Here comes winter-
warm weather, sunny days, there it goes.

Strange Random Language Fact:
According to Illinois state law, it is illegal to speak English. The officially-recognized language is American.”

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Bohemian Rhapsody, by the Muppets

November 27, 2009 3 comments

The Muppets give their own, inimitable take on the Queen classic. Not a lot you can say about this, except perhaps that it’s everything you’d expect and more. So put it on fullscreen and turn up the volume …

Probably the year’s top viral video

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Strange Random Language Fact:
You won’t find a “6” in Cameroon phone numbers–the native language has no sound for “x.”
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When Black Friday comes …

November 27, 2009 1 comment

Booksellers' ad for Black Friday

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. ~Douglas Adams

Funny thing, colours. You would think that with all the negative associations we have for BLACK, that Black Friday would be a day to stay at home as the flyer opposite (promoting books) suggests.

It turns out that the first association of the word had to do with a financial crisis in 1869, which makes sense.

So then there was a bit of a jump to the next sense, which  was to describe the traffic in Philadelphia on the day after Thanksgiving. Having never been to Philadelphia, I can’t say what it’s like, but still, it seems reasonable. After that we get to the modern definition, still the day after Thanksgiving, but now the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season and therefore the time for all shops to climb out of the red (making a loss) into the black (making a profit).

To take advantage of this day, many stores open their doors at times that would make you go “Urggghhh” and offer special “doorbuster” offers of articles at a crazy price (certain similarity here with that great British phenomenom, the “January” Sales).

Here’s an example from last year in Salt Lake City.

Disney Store on Buy Nothing Day ( Black Friday...

Image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr

The other side of the coin is the Adbusters Media Foundation, based in Vancouver, Canada. (It appears that many Canadians also take advantage of the sales, as this insurance website claims). Adbusters organises a BUY NOTHING DAY to coincide with Thanksgiving and Black Friday, in an attempt to “opt out of consumer culture for 24 hours and send world leaders gearing up for the Copenhagen climate summit a message.”

Whatever you decide to do (or not to do), we hope you have a safe Friday and a great weekend!

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Strange Random Language Fact:
In Chinese, the words crisis and opportunity are the same

Thanksgiving – Black Thursday for Turkeys

November 26, 2009 5 comments
Thanksgiving Day
Image via Wikipedia

Along with Halloween, Thanksgiving is one of those events in the US that people elsewhere seem to know very little about, except from what we see on the TV and in the papers.

Currently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863, but did not become a federal holiday until 1941.

Modern Thanksgiving tradition traces its origins to a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation. The Pilgrims were unable to cultivate their usual crops and were saved from almost certain starvation by Squanto, a Patuxet Native American who resided with the Wampanoag tribe. He taught them how to catch eel and grow corn and served as an interpreter for them (Squanto had learned English while enslaved in Europe and during travels in England). After their first successful harvest, the Plymouth settlers held a feast to celebrate the event and to give thanks to God for helping them survive the brutal winter. At the time, this was not regarded as a Thanksgiving observance; harvest festivals existed in English and Wampanoag tradition alike. This “First Thanksgiving” lasted three days, providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Indians. The feast consisted of fowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. However, the traditional Thanksgiving menu often features turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.

You can read more about the different traditions here.

To end with, two different views of Thanksgiving, firstly, from Mark Twain:

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for — annually, not oftener — if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.

and a more modern cultural observation from The Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger:

I love Thanksgiving turkey… it’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.

Have fun!

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Strange Random Language Fact:

In Vulcan, Alberta, Canada, the tourist welcome sign is written in both English and Klingon (alien language from Star Trek).

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Trouble with the photocopier?

November 25, 2009 1 comment
Gnome at Photocopier

Image by fplgnome via Flickr

Be careful next time you want to get angry with the photocopier, printer, router (or whatever).  The gnomes don’t like it. You have been warned!

Strange Random Language Fact:

All pilots on international flights identify themselves in English.

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