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Saturday, 21 October 2017

George Sand

George Sand (real name Aurore Lucie Dupin) was a French Romantic novelist and feminist, noted for her numerous love affairs with such prominent figures as the writers Prosper Merimée (1833) and Alfred de Musset (1833–34), the composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin (1838-47) and her last love, the engraver Alexandre Manceau (1849–65).

Sand, as photographed in 1864 by Nadar


Aurora Dupin was born in Paris on July 1, 1804. She was left in the care of her grandmother, Marie-Aurore de Saxe, Madame Dupin de Francueil, and mother after her father died.

Aurora spent much of her childhood by her grandmother's estate, Nohant, in the French province of Berry. She later used the setting in many of her novels.

Seeking to escape conflict with her grandmother and mother, Aurora entered the Convent of the Dames Augustines Anglaises, Paris, at 14, spending two years there before re-joining her grandmother in Nohant.


Aurora Dupin was less than 5ft tall and dark haired. She was notorious for wearing trousers, smoking cigars and taking a man's name. Her refusal to act like a "real woman" made her  popular among the artists and intelligentsia of her time and helped ignite the woman's revolution.

Aurora Dupin never wrote in the daytime. She did all her writing between 10.00pm and 5.00am.

A liaison with the writer and then-lover Jules Sandeau heralded Dupin's literary debut. They began writing some articles under the name "J. Sand" then published together the novel Rose et Blanche (1831) under the same pseudonym,

Dupin consequently adopted, for her first independent novel, Indiana (1832), the pen name that made her famous – George Sand. The story of an unhappy wife who struggles to free herself from the imprisonment of marriage, it made her an overnight celebrity.

George Sand by Charles Louis Gratia (c. 1835)

As well as her novels, Sand authored literary criticism and political texts, in which she sided with the poor and working class as well as women's rights.

Sand was passionate in her endorsement of radical socialism and an ardent republican. When the 1848 Revolution began, Sand started her own newspaper, which was published in a workers' co-operative.


On December 10, 1822, at age 19, George Sand married François Casimir Dudevant (1795 – 1871), the illegitimate son of Baron Jean-François Dudevant, a French military officer, and his mistress, Augustine Soulé.

Casimir Dudevant, Sand's husband, in the 1860s

George Sand and Dudevant had two children: Maurice (1823–1889) and Solange (1828–1899). The latter married the artist Auguste Clésinger in 1847.

In early 1831 Sand left her husband and entered upon a four- or five-year period of "romantic rebellion." In 1835 she was legally separated from Dudevant.

Sand's reputation came into question when she began sporting men's clothing in public. She adopted the full works: shirt, trousers, jacket, tie, top hat. Sand  justified this by claiming the male apparel was far sturdier, more comfortable and less expensive than the typical dress of a noblewoman at the time. Probably the only reason she got away with it was because she was such a famous writer.

Also scandalous to many of her upper class contemporaries was Sand's smoking tobacco in public and her rowdy sense of humor.

In 1837 George Sand was introduced by Franz Liszt to Frédéric Chopin, who was six years younger than her. They embarked on a relationship, which lasted a decade.

Un hiver à Majorque (A Winter in Majorca) is an autobiographical travel novel that describes the period that Sand and Chopin spent on that island in 1838-9.

Their relationship continued for a decade but they separated in 1847 for various reasons. When Chopin died of tuberculosis two years later, George Sand, was notable by her absence from his funeral.


A cordon-bleu cook, Sand was particularly partial to chavignol, (a soft goats' milk cheese).  She was also fond of the sheep's trotters served at Magny's in Paris.

Sand sewing, from Portrait of Frédéric Chopin and George Sand (1838), Delacroix

George Sand ate her breakfast from the same bowl as her cat Minou.

In the middle and late part of the 19th century, there was a fashion for literary puppet theater in France. George Sand opened a puppet theater in Nohant in 1847, showing plays written by her son, Maurice.


George Sand died at Nohant, near Châteauroux, in France's Indre département on June 8, 1876, at the age of 71 and was buried in the private graveyard behind the chapel at Nohant-Vic.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce


Sand is a mixture of loose grains of different rocks or minerals such as granite, quartz and sand stone.

Close-up (1×1 cm) of sand from the Gobi Desert, Mongolia. By Siim Sepp

Sand consists chiefly of quartz but owes its varying color to its mixtures of other minerals.

There are seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion grains of sand in the world, according to mathematicians at the University of Hawaii.

Beach sand is crucial in the process of mixing concrete and the construction industry uses billions of tons of the granular material every year. Desert sand has the wrong chemical composition for construction.

Sand is a non-renewable resource, and its world supplies are beginning to dwindle. Beach sand suitable for making concrete is in increasingly high demand.

Handprint in beach dand

Saudi Arabia imports sand from Australia.

Sand from the Sahara is blown by the wind all the way to the Amazon, recharging its minerals. The desert literally fertilizes the rain forest.

4% of the sand in Normandy today is made up of metal particles from D-Day.

The most common type of black sand is made of volcanic minerals and lava fragments, like at Punaluu Beach, in Hawaii.

At the southern tip of the island of Hawaii, there is a green sand beach. Most beaches are made of quartz, however, the beaches of Hawaii are made almost entirely from smoothed shells. The green sand comes from the material, olivine.

There are thirty places on Earth where sand dunes can "sing," producing sounds and vibrations when the wind moves their sand particles.

Source Thoughtco

Friday, 20 October 2017

San Marino


The stonecutter Saint Marinus founded San Marino as a monastic community. He declared San Marino  a republic, independent of the Roman Empire, on September 3, 301.

San Marino's written constitution was adopted on October 8, 1600. The Leges Statutae Republicae Sancti Marini is a series of six books written in Latin in the late 16th century, that dictate San Marino's political system, among other matters. It is considered to be the earliest written constitution still in effect of any country in the world.

The San Marino constitution of 1600

In 1861, the government of San Marino wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln proposing an alliance and offering the American president honorary San Marino citizenship. Lincoln accepted the offer.

San Marino remained neutral in both the First and Second World Wars.

During World War II, Britain dropped 243 bombs on the neutral republic of San Marino, in the belief that it had been overrun by the Germans.


San Marino is the world's oldest republic and extant sovereign state still in existence.

Its size is just over 61 km2 (24 sq mi) making San Marino the third smallest country in Europe, Only Vatican City and Monaco are smaller.

San Marino is one of three countries completely surrounded by one other country. The other two are Lesotho and Vatican City.

The country is covered by the Apennine mountain range, and it has a rugged terrain. San Marino has no natural level ground.

The highest point in the country is Monte Titano.

Mount Titano by Nickel Chromo 

San Marino has competed in 12 summer and seven winter Olympics but never won a medal.

Alessandra Perilli came closest to winning San Marino's first ever Olympic medal in the Women's Trap final at London 2012, finishing in a three-way tie for second place, but was the first to miss in the shoot-off meaning she finished fourth.

In 2004, San Marino beat Liechtenstein 1-0 for its first international football win.

Source Daily Express

San Francisco


English sea captain Sir Francis Drake claimed the area where San Francisco is now for England on June 17, 1579. The natives thought they were gods and offered them their entire country. Drake accepted and claimed the land in the name of Queen Elizabeth calling it New Albion and staking to a post an engraved metal plate. (A National Park at San Francisco marks the approximate spot where he anchored the Golden Hind in 1579.)

San Francisco was founded in 1776 by the Spanish conquerors. It was called "Yerba Buena" which is Spanish for "Good Herb", because mint grew there in abundance.

The first documented discovery of gold in California occurred at Rancho San Francisco in 1842, six years before the California Gold Rush.

On July 9, 1846 An American naval captain occupied the settlement of Yerba Buena. Half a year later on January 30 1847, Yerba Buena was renamed San Francisco.

View of San Francisco 1846–47

The first self-service restaurants appeared in San Francisco during the 1848–1855 California gold rush. A selection of free food was placed on the counter in saloons.

Congress established the United States' second mint in San Francisco. During the California Gold Rush underway, the United States Mint in Philadelphia found itself overwhelmed with the task of turning all that gold into coins. In 1854, the San Francisco Mint opened its doors and began converting miners' gold into coins, producing $4,084,207 in gold pieces by December of the first year.

In 1859, San Francisco citizen Joshua Norton declared himself Emperor of the United States of America. The people of San Francisco went along with it, accepting his currency, paying for his meals, and even got the police to salute him in the streets.

The San Francisco cable cars are the only mobile national monuments in the United States.

Cable Car No. 13 on Powell Street

The first cable streetcar created by Andrew Smith Hallidie's invention had its initial test run on August 1, 1873 on Clay Street Hill in San Francisco. It went into operation a month later.

At the age of 15, writer, poet and civil rights activist Angelou Maya (1928-2014) was San Francisco’s first female cable car conductor.

At 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906, a magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck San Francisco. The quake and resulting fires devastated the city, killing at least 3,000 people and leaving more than half of San Francisco's population homeless.

Arnold Genthe's photograph, looking toward the fire on Sacramento Street

The San Francisco Municipal Railway, operator of the city's famed cable car system, opened its first line in 1912.

The Twin Peaks Tunnel in San Francisco, California begun service as the longest streetcar tunnel in the world at 11,920 feet (3,633 meters) long on February 3, 1918.

Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge begun in San Francisco Bay in 1933. Its four-year construction, supervised by chief engineer Joseph B. Strauss, faced many difficulties, including rapidly running tides, frequent storms and fogs, and the problem of blasting rock under deep water to plant earthquake-resistant foundations.

For 27 years after its completion in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge had the longest main span in the world, stretching 4,200 ft (1,280 m).

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point

At a 1945 conference in San Francisco, delegates from 50 nations signed a charter establishing the United Nations.

The first live transcontinental television broadcast took place in San Francisco in 1951, from the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference.


With a a 2016 census-estimated population of  870,887, San Francisco is the 13th largest city in the United States. It is the second-most densely populated major American city behind only New York (among cities greater than 200,000 population).

In 2010, residents of Chinese ethnicity constituted the largest single ethnic minority group in San Francisco at 21% of the population.

San Francisco International Airport is supported by 267 columns which each rest on a steel ball bearing, allowing them to move 20 inches in any direction in an earthquake.

During the summer, rising hot air in California's interior valleys creates a low pressure area that draws winds from the North Pacific resulting in the city's characteristic cool winds and fog. The fog is less pronounced during the late summer and early fall. As a result, the year's warmest month, on average, is September, and on average, October is warmer than July, especially in daytime.

29% of San Francisco's air pollution comes from China.

San Francisco has several nicknames, including "The City by the Bay", "Golden Gate City", "Frisco", "and "Fog City".

Parking in San Francisco is so scarce that the parking spot attached to your property can add up to 100,000 to the property's value.

Thursday, 19 October 2017


The samurai, records of which date back to the early 10th-century Kokin Wakashū, were the military nobility of medieval and early-modern Japan.

The word samurai comes from the Japanese verb saburai, which means to serve (someone).

Samurai in armor in 1860s. Hand-coloured photograph by Felice Beato.

The “Kamakura” government between 1185-1333 made the samurai the ruling class of Japanese society.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was a 16th century military leader of Japan. He made a law that only the samurai could carry weapons.

Japan's first foreign samurai was an African slave named Yasuke and he personally served under the powerful feudal lord  Oda Nobunaga (June 23, 1534 – June 21, 1582). When Oda first saw him, he didn't believe his skin was actually black so he ordered him to strip and scrub his skin.

Archery was part of the education of the noble Samurai and was practiced not for such purposes as the hunt or war, or purely aesthetic enjoyment, but to discipline the mind. Archery was considered a lesson in effortless self-control, perfect equanimity, and the attainment of utter detachment.

Samurai o carrying bow (yumi) and arrows in a yebira quiver

Nakano Takeko—one of the only known female samurais in history—led a women's unit in the Boshin War, a 19th-century Japanese civil war.

Rather than be captured, a defeated samurai would stab himself in the left belly, draw the blade to the right, then pull upwards.

Samurai would sometimes test their sword's effectiveness by attacking random civilians at night.

The process of seppuku was a suicide by disemboweling to preserve honor.  It was also a form of capital punishment for samurai who had committed serious offenses, or had brought shame to themselves. Eventually seppuku became so ritualized that the abdominal cut was not even needed. The samurai merely reached for a fan instead of a knife, and doing so signaled the merciful beheading strike by the samurai's assistant.

General Akashi Gidayu preparing to commit Seppuku after losing a battle for his master in 1582

As Japan modernized during the Meiji period beginning in the late 1860s, the samurai lost much of their power, and the status was ultimately dissolved.

While the samurai numbered less than 10% of then Japan's population, their teachings can still be found today in both everyday life and in modern Japanese martial arts.

On December 22, 1885 Ito Hirobumi, a samurai, became the first Prime Minister of Japan.

The name Jedi is said to have come from “Jidai Geki” , which was the name given in Japan to films about samurai.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017


Technical gadget giant Samsung was started on March 1, 1938 by Lee Byung-chul as a small trading company. Byung-chul was the son of a wealthy landowning family (a branch of the Gyeongju Lee clan.

Lee Byung-chul, founder of Samsung

“Samsung” is comprised of a combination of meanings: Sam (three) and Sung (stars). The stars are references to three celestial Chinese Gods who represent glory, luck and longevity.

Samsung started out with forty employees located in Su-dong (now Ingyo-dong.) It traded dried-fish, locally-grown groceries and noodles.

By 1945 Samsung was transporting goods throughout Korea and to other countries. The company was based in Seoul by 1947.

The trading firm grew to become the present-day Samsung C&T Corporation.

In the late 1960s, Samsung entered the electronics industry. Its first product was a black-and-white television set.

The SPC-1000, introduced in 1982, was Samsung's first personal computer. it was sold in the Korean market only and used an audio cassette tape to load and save data – the floppy drive was optional.

The SPC-1000, 
In first quarter of 2012, Samsung Electronics became the world's largest mobile phone maker by unit sales, overtaking Nokia, which had been the market leader since 1998.

Samsung is so big that they account for 15% of South Korea's entire economy.

In South Korea Samsung offers life insurance.

Schubert's Trout Quintet is used in some Samsung washing machines, to signal the end of a cycle.

The Samsung Town is a major office park in Seocho-gu in Seoul. It serves as the IT and electronics hub for Samsung.

The Samsung headquarters. By Oskar Alexanderson

Samsung also is the sponsor of several sports teams, such as the Premier League football club Chelsea between 2005-2015.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Salvation Army

In 1865 one-time Methodist circuit-preacher William Booth began work as an unattached evangelist heading up 'The Christian Mission' aimed at the unprivileged classes that lived in unspeakable poverty in the East End of London.

Thirteen years later, Booth and his wife Catherine reorganized the mission, introducing the military structure which has been retained to the present day.

"The Salvation Army" name developed from an incident when William Booth was reading a printer's proof of the 1878 “Christian Mission” annual report. He noticed the statement "The Christian Mission is a volunteer army." Booth seized a pen, crossed out "volunteer" and wrote instead "salvation", thus coining the title "Salvation Army" for his movement.

The Christian Mission becomes The Salvation Army (May 1878)

William Booth became known as the General, Catherine is known as the "Mother of The Salvation Army". The other ministers were given appropriate ranks as "officers". Other members became "soldiers."

General Booth summed up the purpose of his organization  in the following way: "We are a salvation people - this is our specialty - getting saved and keeping saved, and then getting somebody else saved.”

The Salvation Army has adopted a uniform including bonnets, which provided protective headgear when the going got rough. The bonnet was worn for the first time on June 16, 1880 at William and Catherine Booth's silver wedding in Whitechapel.

The Salvation Army founders, Catherine and William Booth

The newly launched Salvation Army launched an offensive throughout the British Isles that converted 250,000 Christians between 1881 and 1885.

In 1880, the Salvation Army started its work in three other countries: Australia, Ireland, and the United States. The message spread rapidly,  and they soon gained a foothold in Canada, France, Switzerland, India, South Africa and Germany.

The worldwide expansion of Salvation army. Wikipedia Commons

The Salvation Army's main converts were at first alcoholics, morphine addicts, prostitutes and other "undesirables" unwelcome in polite Christian society. Booth decided not to celebrate Holy Communion due to the large proportion of ex-alcoholics in his congregations. He also refused to advocate baptism, believing that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself. Other beliefs were that its members should completely refrain from drinking alcohol, smoking and gambling.

There was frequent opposition to the Army’s methods and principles in its early years. The evangelical politician Lord Shaftesbury, for instance, concluded that the newly formed Salvation Army was a trick of the devil.

In 1882, 642 Salvation Army officers, including women, were assaulted and 60 of their buildings destroyed in Britain. This "Hallelujah" Band of converted criminals and ex alcoholics were meeting violent opposition. An opposing group coined the Skeleton Army was organized to break up its meetings by throwing rotten eggs, stones and rats or beating officers with sticks. This 'rabble of roughs' was supported by brewers who opposed Booth's teetotal advocating as a threat to their trade, and the brewers offered a shilling each for each Salvation Army ladies' bonnet captured by the Skeleton Army.

The picture below shows members of the Salvation Army being pursued by the Skeleton Army with its distinctive skull and crossbones banner.

In October 1890, Booth published his major social manifesto, In Darkest England and the Way Out. Booth declared, "A starving man cannot hear you preaching. Give him a bowl of soup and he will listen to every word."

In his manifesto, Booth explored various far-reaching ideas, such as providing hostels, employment centres and helping young men learn agricultural trades before emigrating. So significant and conclusive were his findings that the authorities began  to accept the validity of the Salvation Army.

In 1902 King Edward VII invited General Booth to be officially present at his coronation ceremony. This marked a sea change in the public acceptance of the work the Salvation Army was doing amongst the poor and needy in Britain.

Booth in later years

In the United States, The Salvation Army's reputation improved as a result of its disaster relief efforts following the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

In 2004 The Salvation Army received the largest gift ever given to a charity — a donation of $1.6 billion from the estate of Joan B. Kroc, widow of the founder of McDonald’s Corp.

The current world leader of The Salvation Army is General André Cox, who was elected by the High Council of The Salvation Army on August 3, 2013.

Today, The Salvation Army is active in virtually every corner of the world and serves in 127 countries, offering the message of God’s healing and hope to all those in need. It over 1.5 million members consisting of officers, soldiers, and adherents, who as well as meeting to worship God every Sunday, the Salvation Army also run charity shops, operate shelters for the homeless and provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid to developing countries.