Archive for the ‘Random fun stuff’ Category


Private Eye number crunch

In Jokes,Politics,Private Eye offcuts on Friday 29th August, 2014 by Guy Tagged: ,

Will this blog just become an online repository for Private Eye snippets? That’s the best we can hope for.

From Issue 1372:


1,867 Deaths in current Israeli-Palestinian war in which Qatar, which funds Hamas, has urged the international community ‘to assume its moral and humanitarian responsibilities’

1,200 Estimated deaths of foreign construction workers for 2022 World Cup which Qatar bribed its way to win in order to improve its image abroad


Medical jargon I’ve had the misfortune to encounter, and the meanings I eventually discovered they have

In Facty facts,Random fun stuff on Saturday 17th July, 2010 by Guy

Come and learn from my suffering, so that all of personkind may benefit:

Jargon Meaning
Refractory Resisting treatment
Sequelae Consequences
Angelman’s syndrome Happy puppet syndrome*
Pseudomamma Third nipple**

* This is such a biscuit-take of a name, but sadly typical in the medical profession. A defining quote from the linked article:

In 1982 Williams and Jaime L. Frias suggested that the eponym “Angelman” should replace the descriptive title of the condition, in order to avoid any possible offence to the families of affected persons.

[emphasis mine]

It does beggar belief.

** Yes, really.


Cameroon for the Cup!

In Random fun stuff on Saturday 12th June, 2010 by Guy Tagged: , , ,

Now that we can customise Google Chrome with a World Cup team’s colours, it easily follows that I should therefore switch my allegiance from plucky, crazy North Korea with its drab flag
And now my browser has a pretty much unusable colour scheme! Go Cameroon!!! [Are they any good, by the way?]


Tautological translation

In French,Interesting unique life-changing links,Language-matters,Miraculous discoveries,Random fun stuff on Friday 4th September, 2009 by Guy Tagged: , ,

How do you say “Do you remember me?” in French? According to Google’s translation service, the answer is… “Do you remember me?”. No accents needed. Try it yourself. While stocks last at all good food shops.

Obligatory screenshot:

Translation as equality!

Translation as equality!

Hmm, it seems to happen with Galician and Afrikaans too, but not Danish and Macedonian and some others I checked. Is this a function of the statistical algorithm that Google use for automatic translations? Perhaps there are not enough French people (or South Africans or Galicians) plaintively asking if their conversation partner even knows who they are…


Facebook trojan?

In Random fun stuff on Thursday 3rd September, 2009 by Guy Tagged: , , ,

I’m getting weird messages on Facebook from my friends — yes, even weirder than usual. Once today I got a “message” and another time a “gift”, and duly informed on both occasions through the Facebook notification bar. Except the link for the “message” and the “gift” were not to another page on, but rather to — specifically to The domain was registered on the 1st of September by, who specifically offer a service to ensure that whoever owns a domain is kept anonymous.

When I clicked on the first “message” I was presented with all sorts of errors, possibly PHP-related ones, but I’m not sure. I don’t think my computer or my account was infected in any way… but then it must be affecting people somehow, so maybe that was just a diversion tactic to lull me into a false sense of security. If it didn’t attack my account, why other people but not me? I’m using Firefox on Linux: could that be related?

I haven’t seen any many other references to this online, so is it just me (always a strong possibility) or did something similar happen to anyone else?

UPDATE: One other blogger has mentioned this (in Swedish) and a couple of comments here have confirmed it. How does it work? Is it dangerous? And is Facebook doing anything to stop it?

FURTHER UPDATE: “curl”-ing to the URL above yields:

Warning: mysql_connect() [function.mysql-connect]: Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock' (2) in /var/www/lagin.php on line 37

Warning: mysql_select_db() [function.mysql-select-db]: Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock' (2) in /var/www/lagin.php on line 38

Warning: mysql_select_db() [function.mysql-select-db]: A link to the server could not be established in /var/www/lagin.php on line 38

Warning: mysql_query() [function.mysql-query]: Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock' (2) in /var/www/lagin.php on line 39

Warning: mysql_query() [function.mysql-query]: A link to the server could not be established in /var/www/lagin.php on line 39
errorstring(84) "Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock' (2)"
SELECT a.url, a.template_id
FROM application a
WHERE a.status = 1 AND template_id=7 ORDER BY rand()

I don’t know how to quote the original HTML, but the above looks like what I saw earlier, so it was actually MySQL errors that I witnessed. Is it something Facebook can stop?


The Ainu of Japan believe that the world is supported by a Giant Trout and that sin is caused by otters.

In Facty facts,Miraculous discoveries,Otter,Random fun stuff on Monday 25th May, 2009 by Guy

It started with a twit, as it can tend to these days. This twitticism was from the QI Elves, the small people behind Quite Interesting, which is most prominently a television show on the BBC. It went as follows:

The Ainu of Japan believe that the world is supported by a Giant Trout and that sin is caused by otters.

That sentence contains a remarkable otter fact which I didn’t recall having come across before! Certainly none of my otter colleagues had mentioned it to me, unless I misinterpreted their high-pitched squealing for hunger. So, was it a true fact?

I hereby maintain that it is, after some hardy lutran sniffing. At the least, I have traced the fact to someone who wrote a book about the Ainu after living amongst them.

The Ainu are a group indigenous to the northern parts of Japan, though these days they have almost completely assimilated into the general population for various reasons, including discrimination and lack of official recognition until relatively recently. Alas and alack.

In 1901 a book was published by the Religious Tract Society of London entitled “The Ainu and their folk-lore”, written by a missionary called John Batchelor. Some crazedly-written details of his life can be had here. I found a scanned copy of his tome at the mighty which weighs in at a similarly mighty 33MB in PDF form. [These sort of sentences are always amusing a few years after being written, because of advances in technology. Go ahead, laugh at me, Generation A! Or Generation 笑, whatever we get to]. The American broadcaster PBS quotes the relevant section (though no kudos to them for quoting the last word of the title of the book as “Folklore” rather than “folk-lore”, as that made it harder for me to find references to it elsewhere):

“When God was in the act of making the first man and had nearly finished His task, it happened to be necessary for Him to unexpectedly return to heaven on important business. Before setting out for the return journey, He called an otter, which happened to be near at the time, and told him that He was going away, but would quickly send another deity to finish the work He Himself had already begun, and he (the otter) was to deliver a message to him, explaining what to do.

“Now, although this animal said he would deliver the message without fail, he grew careless and did nothing but amuse himself by swimming up and down the rivers, catching and eating fish; he fixed his whole attention on this, and thought of nothing else. So intent was he on his fishing that he entirely forgot the message God gave him to deliver; yea, the otter forgot all about it. This is the reason why the first man was made so imperfect, and why all human beings are not quite in the fashion God originally intended. As a punishment for this deliquency and astonishing forgetfulness, God punished the otter with a bad memory; yea, he took his memory completely away. This is why no otter can now remember anything”….

“The otter’s head must not lightly be used as an article of food, for unless people are very careful they will, if they eat it, become as forgetful as that creature. And hence it happens that when an otter has been killed the people do not usually eat the head.

“But if they are seized with a very strong desire for a feast of otter’s head, they may partake thereof, providing proper precautions are taken. When eating it the people must take their swords, knives, axes, bows and arrows, tobacco boxes and pipes, trays, cups, garden tools, and everything they possess, tie them up in bundles with carrying slings, and sit with them attached to their heads while in the act of eating … If this method be carefully adhered to, there will be no danger of forgetting where a thing has been placed, otherwise loss of memory will be the result.”

So otters are more the cause of original sin, in a way, than sin per se. But it is still a fascinatingly weird theology to have.

I miss the animists, I really do.

(The trout fact was also given by Batchelor. It’s worth checking out all the quotes on the dedicated PBS website from his book.)

A similar story is recorded by Basil Hall Chamberlain in “Aino Folk-Tales”, published by the Folk-lore Society in 1888:

At the beginning of the world it had been the Creator’s intention to place both men’s and women’s genitals on their foreheads so that they might be able to procreate children easily. But the otter made a mistake in conveying the message to that effect; and that is how the genitals come to be in the inconvenient place they are now in. —(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte, 11th July, 1886.)



Collection Folio No. 1 — what is the first Folio book?

In Facty facts,French,Language-matters,Miraculous discoveries,Random fun stuff,Uncategorized on Thursday 7th May, 2009 by Guy

This one really had me stumped, and I’m surprised at how hard it was to solve.

One of France’s largest publishers, Gallimard, releases many books under the “Folio” imprint. For me, these books are the quintessence of French book publishing. They invariably have a white background, a simple cover, and a very serious, classic text inside. They look like this.

On the spine there is a number, which I suppose represents how many books have previously been published under the Folio imprint, but I couldn’t confirm this. They are up to four digits now… They are truly ubiquitous in any French bookshop.

An obvious question arises if one is as easily distracted by pointless questions as I am: which book has the number 1 on its spine? Purely by chance (helped no doubt by its fame), I found that Albert Camus’ “L’étranger” is number 2. It couldn’t be much harder to find its predecessor, surely? A quick google search or three should suffice…

But of course it wasn’t sufficient, otherwise I wouldn’t have written about it. [Oh, selection and publication bias, how I adore thee!] Incredibly, I could not find a simple list of all the Folio books every published along with their associated number. Yes, of course the Folio collection has its own site. But it didn’t burp up the simple list I required.

Anywho, after much speculative clicking, I managed to order all Folio books in order of publication date. And thus it was that I found that the “first ever” Folio book — albeit published on the same day as “L’étranger”, on the 7th of January 1972 — is…

André Malraux’s

“La condition humaine”

Never heard of it either, but it looks serious and classic.

Now I can sleep safely.