Friday, April 28, 2023



Variously called "Scotland's Disgrace" or "Scotland's Pride and Poverty" or "Edinburgh's Shame" the National Monument on Calton Hill in Edinburgh was supposed to have been a memorial to the Scots who died in the Napoleonic Wars. The idea was to create a copy of the Parthenon in Athens (Edinburgh is sometimes called the "Athens of the North").

Sir Walter Scott, Sir Henry Cockburn and others launched a subscription to pay the estimated cost of 42,000 pounds. The foundation stone was laid on 27 October 1822 but three years later work stopped as less than half the cost had been subscribed. The twelve Doric columns on their base still remain.

Attempts to complete the National Monument have never borne fruit for reasons of either cost or lack of local enthusiasm. A proposal in 2004 met with a mixed reception. The monument was repaired in December 2008, repositioning one of the stone lintels that had moved out of alignment. The cost was £100,262.


Somewhat more successful than the National Monument was the Nelson Monument which was dedicated in 1807, two years after the Battle of Trafalgar. The 108 foot tower was designed by Robert Burn to resemble an inverted telescope and houses a museum to Nelson.

In 1852, a large time ball was introduced, which is lowered as the one o’clock gun is fired from Edinburgh castle each day. It was released at exactly 1.0pm so that the ships in Leith harbour could reset their chronometers. There was an electrical cable connection with the "One O'clock Gun" fired on the battlements of Edinburgh Castle, 4,000 feet away.

Time ball on the Nelson Monument


The TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Mann’s, originally Grauman’s), has handprints and footprints of Hollywood stars imprinted in the concrete.

The very first one, however, was an accident. The tradition was born after actress Norma Talmadge accompanied Sid Grauman — the theater magnate who was opening the now-famous landmark — and other Hollywood stars to the site of the heater when it was under construction in 1927. Upon arrival, when Talmadge stepped out of the car, she accidentally placed her foot directly on wet cement, leaving an imprint behind. Rather than being annoyed, Grauman decided that it would be a wonderful idea of invite the most popular Hollywood stars to leave their hand and footprints on cement, thus immortalising them for all time. In honor of Talmadge and the inspiration her little accident gave him, Grauman asked her to be first personality to place her hands and feet in the cement at the Chinese Theatre's first footprint ceremony on May 18, 1927. She signed the cement block with the following: "Sid dear — my wish is for your success — Norma Talmadge.".

Norma Talmadge (1894-1957)

Talmadge and Grauman at the first footprint ceremony

Talmadge's prints at Grauman's Chinese Theater


A 2021 large-scale animal study revealed a correlation between how long an animal yawns and the size of its brain.

Researchers collected data on 1,291 separate yawns from zoo trips and online videos, covering a total of 55 mammal species and 46 bird species. They found that vertebrates with larger brains and more neurons tend to have longer-lasting yawns.

The analysis was set up to test a hypothesis put forward in 2007 by one of the researchers that worked on this study: that yawning is an essential way of cooling down the brain. It, therefore, follows that bigger brains need longer yawns to properly cool them.

I believe it. I generally yawn for up to 2 minutes each yawn. My friend Steve M, on the other hand, has yawns that would be lucky to last 2 seconds each.


When cellophane was invented in 1908, it was originally intended to be used to protect tablecloths from wine spills. It was invented by Swiss chemist Jacques E. Brandenberger who, in 1900, was inspired by seeing wine spill on a restaurant's tablecloth and who decided to create a cloth that could repel liquids rather than absorb them. It took ten years for Brandenberger to perfect his film. By 1912 he had constructed a machine to manufacture the film, which he had named Cellophane, from the words cellulose and diaphane ("transparent"). Whitman's candy company initiated use of cellophane for candy wrapping in the United States in 1912 for their Whitman's Sampler.

Some ads just make you shudder and look on in horror


Snow has been recorded several times in the Sahara Desert over the last decades, most recently in January 2022. Snowfall may be unusual but is not unprecedented in the region.

In order for snow to form, two distinctive weather properties are needed: cold temperatures and moist air. The presence of snow reflects a special combination of air circulation in the atmosphere and the nature of the land surface upon which the snow falls.

Although the Sahara commonly experiences very high temperatures (more than 50°C), low temperatures are also recorded (in particular at night) because of the bare land surface and the cloudless skies. A maximum cold of -14°C was recorded in Algeria in January 2005 during the northern hemisphere winter.

Sahara desert: Rare snowfall leaves extraordinary pattern on sand dunes


General Sherman is a giant sequoia tree located at an elevation of 2,109 m (6,919 ft) above sea level in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park in Tulare County, in the U.S. state of California. By volume, it is the largest known living single-stem tree on Earth. It is estimated to be around 2,200 to 2,700 years old.

General Sherman tree

Firefighters and park personnel wrap General Sherman in fire shelter material to help protect it from the KNP Complex Fire

While General Sherman is the largest currently living tree, it is not the largest historically recorded tree. The Lindsey Creek tree, with more than 90,000 cubic feet (2,500 cubic meters) almost twice the volume of General Sherman, was reported felled by a storm in 1905. Another larger tree, the Crannell Creek Giant, a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) cut down in the mid-1940s near Trinidad, California, is estimated to have been 15–25% larger than the General Sherman Tree by volume.

The General Sherman Tree was named after the American Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman. The official story, which may be apocryphal, claims the tree was named in 1879 by naturalist James Wolverton, who had served as a lieutenant in the 9th Indiana Cavalry under Sherman.


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