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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Sonja Henie


Sonja Henie was born in Kristiania, current Oslo, the only daughter of Wilhelm Henie , a prosperous Norwegian furrier, and his wife Selma Lochmann-Nielsen..

Wilhelm Henie had been a one-time World Cycling Champion and the Henie children were encouraged to take up a variety of sports at a young age. Sonja  initially showed talent at skiing, and then followed her older brother Leif to take up figure skating. Her father hired the best experts in the world, including the famous Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina, to transform his daughter into a sporting celebrity.


Henie won her first major competition, the senior Norwegian championships, at the age of 10. She then placed eighth in a field of eight at the 1924 Winter Olympics, at the age of eleven.

She won the first of an unprecedented ten consecutive World Figure Skating Championships in 1927 at the age of fourteen.

Henie went on to win first of her three Olympic gold medals in 1928.  The "Norwegian doll" defended her Olympic titles in 1932 and in 1936. Her unprecedented three Olympic gold medals haven't been matched by any ladies' single skater since.

Sonja Henie at the 1936 Olympics

Sonja Henie was the first to introduce the mini-skirt. She did this in 1924 for professional reasons. In the beginning people were shocked, but soon other skaters copied her, realizing the freedom of movement the abbreviated skirt gave.

She is credited with introducing music and dance-based movements into free-skating and thus greatly broadening the public for what had been a previously technical event.  Henie's innovative skating techniques and glamorous demeanor transformed the sport permanently and confirmed its acceptance as a legitimate sport in the Winter Olympics


After the 1936 World Figure Skating Championships, Henie gave up her amateur status and took up a career as a professional performer in acting and live shows. Her supreme art on the ice captured the public's imagination and drew enormous crowds. "To skate like Sonja Henie" became a world-wide endeavor.

Following a successful ice show in Los Angeles orchestrated by her father to launch her film career, Hollywood studio chief Darryl Zanuck signed Henie to a long term contract at Twentieth Century Fox, which made her one of the highest-paid actresses of the time. After the success of her first film, One in a Million, Henie's position was assured

At the height of her fame, Heine's shows and touring activities brought her as much as $2 million per year. She also had numerous lucrative endorsement contracts, and deals to market skates, clothing, jewelry, dolls, and other merchandise branded with her name. These activities made her one of the wealthiest women in the world in her time.

Sonja Henie CINEGRAF magazine Wikipedia

Sonja Henie died of leukemia at the age of 57 on October 12, 1969 during a flight from Paris to Oslo. She is buried with Onstad in Oslo on the hilltop overlooking the Henie-Onstad Art Centre.

Sources Wikipedia, Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999. 

Jimi Hendrix

Born in Seattle, Washington on November 27, 1942,  Jimi Hendrix was primarily of African American descent, with Irish and Cherokee ancestors.

He was born John Allen Hendrix. When his father, Al Hendrix, returned from the Army, he renamed him James Marshall Hendrix.

Jimi Hendrix failed his high school music class.

When Jimi’s father saw him playing a simple kitchen broom, he bought him his very first instrument, which was a one-stringed ukulele.

He began playing the guitar at the age of 15 and was entirely self-taught.

At first Jimi Hendrix, being left-handed, would secretly restring his guitars to fit his left hand, but when his superstitious father was around (who believed it was bad luck to play with your left hand), he taught himself to play the normal guitar upside down.

In 1961 Jimi Hendrix was caught riding in stolen cars. A judge gave Hendrix the choice to either serve his country by joining the army or serve time in prison for two years. He enlisted in the United States Paratrooper Division and was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky as a member of the Screaming Eagles fighting squad. Hendrix was honorably discharged a little over a year later after (according to him) breaking his ankle during a parachute jump.

Hendrix in the US Army, 1961

In 1963, Hendrix moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, and began playing gigs on the chitlin' circuit, which was a tour with black artists playing to mostly black audiences.

Hendrix moved to England in late 1966 after being discovered by bassist Chas Chandler of the Animals.  The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded their first single "Hey Joe", at De Lane Lea studios in the English capital on October 23, 1966.

Within months, Hendrix had earned three UK Top Ten hits with the Jimi Hendrix Experience: "Hey Joe", "Purple Haze", and "The Wind Cries Mary".

Jimi Hendrix was inspired to write "The Wind Cries Mary" as an apology after having a heated argument with his girlfriend, Kathy Mary Etchingham, over her lumpy mashed potatoes.

Hendrix on stage in 1967

Jimi Hendrix wrote "The Wind Cries Mary" in an apartment he was subleasing from Ringo Star.

During a March 31, 1967 gig at the Astoria Theatre in London, Jimi Hendrix set fire to his guitar for the first time, and went to the hospital after the show with minor burns. During the rest of the tour, Hendrix made a habit of play his guitar with his teeth, and he ignited his axe several more times.

In 1968 Hendrix's third and final studio album, Electric Ladyland, reached #1 in the US. The album's cover for its UK release featured 19 naked women pulled from English pubs. Hendrix did not like the cover because he felt it detracted from the music. In the US, the cover was replaced by some psychedelic artwork.

By 1969, Hendrix was the world's highest-paid performer. He headlined Woodstock that year and was the highest-paid performer at the festival, making $18,000—that's $114,624 today.

Hendrix flashed a peace sign during his performance at Woodstock

Customs agents at Toronto International Airport detained Hendrix after finding a small amount of heroin and hashish in his luggage in May 1969. In December of that year he stood trial for two counts of illegal possession of narcotics, carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  He was acquitted after a three-day trial due to doubts as to whether the narcotics belonged to Hendrix. In remarks to reporters after the verdict was announced, Hendrix commented: "Canada has given me the best Christmas present I ever had", while flashing a peace sign.

Hendrix lived for a time in the late 1960s at 23 Brook Street in London's Mayfair, which is one door down from the former residence of George Frideric Handel.

Jimi Hendrix once shared a flat in London's Notting Hill with Ronnie Wood later of The Rolling Stones and American soul singer PP Arnold,

Jimmy Hendrix was such a bad tenant that Ringo Star once had to evict him.

The English Heritage blue plaque that identifies Hendrix's former Brook Street residence was the first the organization ever granted to a pop star.

Jimi Hendrix was found dead in his girlfriend's apartment in the Samarkand Hotel, 22 Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill, London on September 18, 1970. He had taken nine pills of the barbiturate vesperax, and that along with the alcohol he had consumed, caused a fatal overdose.

In 2002, Hendrix's remains were moved to Greenwood Memorial Cemetery in Renton, Washington, where he is buried under a 30-foot granite dome.

Jimi Hendrix is the most influential guitarist of all time, according to Rolling Stone magazine. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as, "arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music".

Source Artistfacts

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Ernest Hemingway


Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, the eldest son of five siblings. His father, Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, was a physician, and his mother, Grace Hall-Hemingway, was a painter and musician.

His mother dressed and raised Ernest as a girl for some of the early part of his life, calling him "Ernestine". She  fantasied that he was the twin of his older, 18-month-old sister, Marcelline. Some accounts hold that she dressed them both as girls and let their hair grow long, then later cut their hair and dressed them both as boys.

Hemingway as a baby

For two months each summer, Ernest was allowed to attend a boys' camp, where he could dress and live as a boy.

His boyhood was spent in the wild country round the Great Lakes which gave him a love for the outdoor life. Ernest had a happy childhood until his parents began to quarrel bitterly.

In his youth, Ernest joined his father fishing and hunting; he was given a fishing rod by his father when he was three and a shotgun when he was ten .

From 1913 until 1917, Ernest attended Oak Park and River Forest High School where he took part in a number of sports, namely boxing, track and field, water polo, and football.

Ernest excelled in English classes and performed in the school orchestra with his sister Marcelline for two years.

In his junior year, Ernest took a journalism class. The better writers in class submitted pieces to The Trapeze, the school newspaper. Ernest's first piece, published in January 1916, was about a local performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.


After leaving high school in 1917, Hemingway he went to work for The Kansas City Star as a cub reporter. Although he stayed there for only six months, he relied on the Star's style guide of using short, vigorous sentences as a foundation for his writing.

Early in 1918, Hemingway responded to a Red Cross recruitment effort in Kansas City and signed on to become an ambulance driver in Italy. (His sight was too bad for the army.) He left New York in May and arrived in Paris as the city was under bombardment from German artillery.

Hemingway in uniform in Milan, 1918. 

Hemingway was awarded two Italian military decorations for bravery as a volunteer with the ambulance unit. However, he suffered a severe knee wound and was forced to return home with an aluminium kneecap which knits together his injured leg.

In late 1919 Hemingway was hired as foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, and he and his wife left for Paris. During his first 20 months in the French capital, Hemingway filed 88 stories for the Toronto Star. He covered the Greco-Turkish War, where he witnessed the burning of Smyrna and wrote various travel pieces.

Hemingway's first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems, was published in 1923. From then on Hemingway preferred to live the life of a writer, rather than live the life of a journalist.

In 1936 Hemingway was sent to Spain as a war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War. He donated much of his fortune ($40,000) to Spanish Medical Aid during the war.

Hemingway was recruited by the KGB in 1941 before making a trip to China and was given the cover name "Argo". However, he failed to give any practical information, so Russian contacts with Argo had ceased by the end of the decade.

The United States entered World War II on December 8, 1941. Hemingway convinced the Cuban government (by then he was living in Cuba) to help him refit his fishing boat, the Pilar, which he intended to use to ambush German submarines off the island's coast.

From May 1944 to March 1945, Hemingway was in London and Europe as a war correspondent . He joined the 22nd regiment of the 4th Infantry Division and took part in Allied landings in Normandy as part of the 4th Infantry invasion. Hemingway had recently been hospitalized with concussion from a car accident and as he was wearing a large head bandage, he wasn't allowed ashore.

Late in July, Hemingway attached himself to the 22nd Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel Charles 'Buck' Lanham, as it drove toward Paris, and he became de facto leader to a small band of village militia in Rambouillet outside of Paris.

At Villedieu-les-Poêles, France, Hemingway threw three grenades into a cellar where SS officers were hiding, a clear violation of the Geneva Convention. It was the first time he had killed a man.

On December 17, 1944, a feverish and ill Hemingway had himself driven to Luxembourg to cover what would later be called The Battle of the Bulge. As soon as he arrived, however, he was handed to the doctors, who hospitalized him with pneumonia; by the time he recovered a week later, most of the fighting in this battle was over.


"Easy writing makes hard reading" was Hemingway's philosophy. He succeeded in giving voice to the inarticulate fears and longings of ordinary people. His terse descriptions and spare dialogue earned such writing the epithet "Hemingwayese."

Ernest Hemingway once wrote a six-word short story - It read “For sale: baby shoes, never used.”

An early riser, Hemingway started work at first light and continued until noon.  He said he woke at sunrise every day because his eyelids were especially thin: "My mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast — talk them or write them down."

Hemingway began by writing standing up in pencil on onion skin paper,(he felt it was better not to feel comfortable whilst writing) shifting to the typewriter when all was going well.  He attempted around 500 words a day.

The Sun Also Rises, which dealt with the desolation of American ex-pats in Paris, was published in 1926. Hemingway wrote much of this work in the Cafe Closerie ded Lilas, Boulveyard Du Mont Parnasse, Paris.

The phrase "The Lost Generation" was originated in The Sun Also Rises.

Hwmingway's 1928 novel Death in the Afternoon, written after his father's suicide, was ostentatiously about bull fighting in Spain but is really a metaphor for man's struggle with death.

Originally intended to be a short story, A Farewell to Arms, Hemimgway's 1929 novel, was inspired by his love affair during World War 1 on the Italian/Austrian front with the Red Cross Nurse, Agnes Von Karowsky. She was 8-years-older than Ernest  dismissed it as puppy love.

Hemingway revised the last page of A Farewell to Arms 39 times.

A Farewell to Arms was banned in Ireland in 1939 for being immoral and irreligious.

A 10-week East African safari led to the 1935 publication of Green Hills of Africa, an under appreciated non-fiction narrative about hunting Kudu bulls, as well as the short stories The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.

To Have or Not to Have was Hemingway's 1937 novel about a mercenary at sea near the West Indies..Howard Hawks bet Hemingway he could make a movie out of what he considered to be the novelist’s worst book and delivered the Bogart and Bacall movie. He did it by using little of the novel.

The first edition of the Ernest Hemingway novel For Whom the Bell Tolls was published on October 21, 1940. The first edition print run was 75,000 copies priced at $2.75. Hemingway wrote the book in Havana, Cuba; Key West, Florida; and Sun Valley, Idaho in 1939. The story was based on his experiences during the Spanish Civil War.

Hemingway got the book title from English metaphysical poet John Donne's 1624 work Meditation XVII. The line he quotes from reads: "And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."

The Old Man and the Sea, inspired by Hemingway's beloved fishing boat The Pilar, was first published in Life Magazine on September 1, 1952, and five million copies of the magazine were sold in two days. The story centers upon Santiago, an ageing fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.

Original book cover. Wikipedia Commons

The Old Man and the Sea was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction on May 4, 1953 and was cited by the Nobel Committee as contributing to the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Hemingway in 1954.

Hemimgway wrote nothing after receiving the 1954 Nobel prize.

Unlike his great contemporaries Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Steinbeck, Hemingway never wrote for the movies, but he had no objection to selling his novels and short stories for good prices to producers.

Hemingway hated every one of the films based on his stories. The Snows of Kilmanjano he scathingly referred to as “The snows of Darryl Zanuck.”

Ernest Hemingway once wrote a six-word short story - It read “For sale: baby shoes, never used.”


Hemimgway was 6 foot (1.83 m), barrel chested with Hollywood white teeth and an army mustache. In his later years he was shaggy grey bearded, bespectacled.

In Paris Gertrude Stein became his mentor and introduced Hemingway to the "Parisian Modern Movement" then ongoing in Montparnasse Quarter. At the same time, Hemingway became a close friend of James Joyce. These authors and many others met at Sylvia Beach's bookshop, Shakespeare & Co., at 18 Rue de l'Odéon, Paris.

Scott Fitzgerald was his close friend and drinking partner in Paris. Hemingway drunk gin neat whilst Fitzgerald favored gin cocktails.

Hemingway and Fitzgerald became more distant as Hemingway's fame grew and Fitzgerald's declined and became increasingly dependent on alcohol. Hemingway disapproved of Fitzgerald's lowering his great talent to write high-priced stories for the slick commercial magazines like The Saturday Evening Post and his sojourns in Hollywood to make money writing screenplays.

Hemingway married red-haired Hadley Richardson, a woman 7-years-older than him in 1919. They had one son, John.

As a poverty stricken young reporter in Paris, Hemingway managed to keep his family fed only by poaching pigeons in the Luxembourg Gardens in the company of his infant son. He lured each pigeon with some grain, wrung its neck, and then hid each one under the baby's pram blanket.

During a stop in Paris, in 1926, Hemingway began an affair with Pauline Pfeiffer, a beautiful blonde Catholic. In the one hundred days Hadley ordered him to stay away from Pauline, Hemingway wrote much of Men Without Women.

Hemingway divorced Hadley Richardson in January 1927 and married Pauline Pfeiffer in May of that year.

Hemingway fathered two sons Patrick and Gregory with Pauline. Patrick was, like Henry's son in A Farewell to Arms, delivered by Cesarean section. The intense labor pains Pauline endured, inspired Catherine's labor in the novel.

Gregory died in police custody after being picked up in a stupor shortly after a sex change operation.

In the late 1930s a slow and painful split from Pauline ensued, which had begun when Hemingway met journalist and writer Martha Gellhorn in Key West during Christmas 1936.

After Hemingway's divorce from Pauline was finalized, he and Martha were married November 20, 1940, in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She described marriage to Hemingway as "a life darkening experience."

Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway with unidentified Chinese military officers 1941

Hemingway and Martha separated after the novelist met the boyish war correspondent Mary Welsh in London during World War II. He was immediately infatuated with her and asked Mary to marry him on their third meeting.

Hemingway married Mary on March 14, 1946 at a ceremony in Cuba. She had an ectopic pregnancy five months later. The couple didn't produce any children together.

After their marriage, Mary lived with Hemingway in Cuba for many years and, after 1959, in Ketchum, Idaho.

Ernest and Mary Hemingway on safari in Kenya, Africa, 1953-1954.

Hemingway was the grandfather of sister actresses Mariel and the late Margaux Hemingway.


A Catholic, through his second wife, Pauline's influence, Hemingway donated his Nobel Prize money to the Shrine of the Virgin in Ecuba, Cuba. However his faith was unable to enable him to overcome his hedonistic tendencies; the writer once claimed "what is moral is what you feel good after."

 Ernest Hemingway feared telephones. It stemmed from his fear of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.


Following the advice of John Dos Passos, Hemingway moved to Key West where he established his first American home. From his old stone house — a wedding present from Pauline's uncle — Hemingway fished in the Dry Tortugas waters, went to Sloppy Joe's, Key West's famous bar, and traveled to Spain.

In 1930, Hemingway had the first ever swimming pool in Key West built.

Hemingway's house in Key West, Florida (see below), where he wrote a good deal of his literature, is now a museum in his honor.

He removed a urinal from his local Key West bar and installed it in his home. Hemingway claimed that he had flushed so much of his money down it over the years, he owned it.

In 1939 Hemingway moved to Cuba, where he lived in a Spanish style house, at Finca Vigia in San Francisco de Paula, 20 miles from Havana. He wrote in a white tower, which gave a view of Havana and the surrounding countryside.

Hemingway lived in Cuba in the 1940s and 50s. Finca Vigia was restored by the Cuban and U.S. governments from 2005 and opened to tourists in 2007.

In 1959 Hemingway bought a house in Ketchum, Idaho, where he committed suicide in the summer of 1961.


Hemingway had a large collection of Hawaiian shirts.After moving to Cuba he wore a white Guayabera, a Cuban shirt which hangs outside the trousers, and grey slacks.

Hemingway owned scores of cats including ones named Alley Cat, Boise, Crazy Christian, Dillinger, Mr Feather Puss (so trusted that the Hemingways allowed him to baby-sit their infant), Furhouse and Pilar.

Today many of their feline descendants can be located on the grounds of Hemingway's Key West home. The lineage of cats that live there have six toes on each foot, a quirk that goes back to Hemmingway's own cats.

Hemingway shared his Cuban home with around 40 cats, 15 dogs, hundreds of pigeons and three cows.

Hemimgway liked action and adventure such as big game hunting in Africa, (his favorite shooting gun was his Springfield 30-06), and fishing for White Marlin. Hemingway once caught a 800 pound swordfish.

Ernest Hemingway in Key West, Florida, USA, in the 1940s, with a sailfish he had caught

Athletic and good at sports, Hemingway enjoyed boxing (he paid local Key West men to spar with him), skiing, bullfighting and tennis.

The bar in Key West, Florida, where he hung out the most was Sloppy Joe's. A drinking connoisseur, Hemingway invented a Papa's Special, a cocktail containing a squirt of wine, a squirt of grapefruit juice, some ice and four ounces of rum.

Hemingway earned himself a few extra bucks by advertising Ballentine Ale. He claimed the ale was just what he needed after “fighting with a really big fish.”

Whilst working on a novel Hemingway survived solely on peanut butter sandwiches.


Hemingway's success in becoming a successful author was overshadowed by numerous injuries. The injury prone writer survived two successive plane crashes in the African bush, where he jammed his spine, ruptured his right kidney, collapsed his intestine and suffered concussion.

Hemimgway was badly injured one month later in a bushfire accident which left him with second degree burns on his legs, front torso, lips, left hand and right forearm. The physical pain of all his injuries took away all his strength meaning he was unable to travel to Stockholm personally to accept his Nobel Prize.

Other wounds Hemingway suffered during his life  included a finger gashed to the bone in an accident with a punching ball, laceration of arms, legs and face from a ride on a runaway horse through a deep Wyoming forest, and a car accident resulting in a broken arm.

Hemimgway once calculated he had acquired 237 shrapnel scars during the two world wars. He also suffered several broken bones from his time as a matador.

During his last years, Hemingway suffered from bipolar disorder, then known as manic depression, and was treated with electroshock therapy at the Menninger Clinic. The therapy, he claimed, had destroyed his memory, which was essential to a writer, and he told his friend A.E. Hotchner that his memory loss was one of the reasons he no longer wanted to live.

By the summer of 1961, Hemingway was ill with high blood-pressure, chronic alcoholism, heart problems, liver failure, skin problems (following the air plane crashes), depression and insomnia.

In the early morning hours of July 2, 1961, Hemingway shot himself with his favorite shotgun. He is interred in the Ketchum Cemetery in Ketchum, Idaho.

Hemingway's father Clarence, his siblings Ursula and Leicester, and his granddaughter Margaux all also committed suicide.

Sources Food For Thought by Ed Pearce, Novels and Novelists by Martin Seymour-Smith (Editor) 

Saturday, 27 June 2015


Helsinki was established as a trading town by King Gustav I of Sweden in 1550 as the town of Helsingfors, which he intended to be a rival to the Hanseatic city of Reval (today known as Tallinn).

Little came of the plans as Helsinki remained a tiny town plagued by poverty, wars, and diseases. Many people returned from Helsinki to their homes.

A 1710 plague killed the greater part of the inhabitants of Helsinki.

It was not until Russia defeated Sweden in the Finnish War and annexed Finland as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809 that Helsinki began to develop into a substantial city.

Czar Alexander I of Russia moved the Finnish capital from Turku to Helsinki in 1812 to reduce Swedish influence in Finland, and to bring the capital closer to St. Petersburg.

When Finland became independent in 1917, Helsinki remained as the capital city.

In 1944 the USSR began a massive air attack on Helsinki in an attempt to force Finland to leave World War II. The Finns used fires and searchlights to trick Soviet bombers into dropping bombs outside the city. Russian diplomats were surprised to find an intact Helsinki after the war.

The 1952 Summer Olympics were held in Helsinki opening on July 19, 1952. The Finish capital had been earlier selected to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were cancelled due to World War II. It is the northernmost city at which a summer Olympic Games have been held.

Paavo Nurmi and the Olympic Flame

The first Athletics World Championships take place in Helsinki in 1983.

Helsinki is the largest city in Finland with a population of 604,380. 1,360,000 live in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

Helsinki is called the "Daughter of the Baltic," as it is located on the tip of a peninsula and on 315 islands on the Baltic Sea.

Helsinki is the most expensive city in the world to order room service.

Source Wikipedia

Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty is a fictional female white Japanese bobtail cat with a red bow that was created in 1974 by the Japanese company Sanrio.

The character's first appearance on an item was a vinyl coin purse, and Sanrio has since groomed Hello Kitty into a global marketing phenomenon worth $5 billion a year.

Most of Hello Kitty's fans are adults, and it is not unusual for grown-ups in Asia to avidly consume her products.

A years-long copyright battle between the owners of Hello Kitty and the Dutch creator of bunny character Miffy ended after the Japanese tsunami. Both parties agreed to immediately drop the case and donate their anticipated legal fees to the Tsunami Relief Effort.

There is a Hello Kitty brand of beer that comes in peach, lemon-lime, passionfruit, and banana flavors.

In Thailand, police officers who are caught breaking minor laws are forced to wear Hello Kitty armbands for a few days as punishment.

There is a Hello Kitty-themed hospital in Taiwan.


French astronomer Pierre Jules César Janssen discovered helium on August 17, 1868, while analyzing the chromosphere of the sun during a total solar eclipse in Guntur, India.

Helium is the only element that was discovered in space before found on Earth.

Because helium was found in the Sun before it was found on Earth, its name comes from the Greek word for Sun, helios.

Helium is a finite resource on Earth and cannot be manufactured.

Although helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, most of it in the Earth's atmosphere bleeds off into space.

The US government has held a stockpile of 1 billion cubic meters of helium since 1925. This is due to post World War 1 fear that we may run out of helium in case of blimp warfare. The Federal Helium Program sells vast amounts of the gas to U.S. companies that use it in everything from party balloons to MRI machines.

Helium is one of lightest and least dense of all the elements. Its low density is what causes balloons filled with the gas to float, buoyed up by the denser surrounding air.

Helium is called a noble gas, because it does not regularly mix with other chemicals and form new compounds. It has the lowest boiling point of all the elements.  There are seven noble gases (the other six are Oganesson, Radon, Xenon, Krypton, Argon and Neon). Helium has the least density and it is the lightest of all the noble gases.

Because helium is easily compressed and non-toxic, it is used in specialized breathing mixtures of gases for very deep scuba diving, as a replacement for the nitrogen that makes up about 75 per cent of our air.

In 2013, Qatar started up the world's largest helium unit. The world suffered a shortage of helium four years later after Saudi Arabia closed its border with Qatar, as it accused the Gulf state of funding terrorism. Helium factories shut and global prices drifted upwards.

When liquid helium is cooled to just a few degrees below its boiling point of –452 degrees Fahrenheit (–269 degrees Celsius)  the lowest temperature possible, it becomes a superfluid with unusual properties: it flows against gravity and will start running up and over the lip of a glass container.
The liquid helium will also dribble through molecule-thin cracks and remain motionless when its container is spun due to its frictionless flow. 

The largest single use of liquid helium is to cool the superconducting magnets in modern MRI scanners.

Liquefied helium

Today, the US alone produces 75 percent of the world's helium. Nearly half of that total, or roughly 30 percent of the world's helium supply, comes from the U.S. Federal Helium Reserve. That reserve is held in a huge natural underground reservoir near Amarillo, Texas called the Bush Dome.

At the heart of the Sun 600 million tonnes of hydrogen are converted into helium every second.

Helium.makes up around 45 percent of the mass of the sun.


The two parts to the word “helicopter” are not "heli" and "copter". It is adapted from the French language hélicoptère, which originates from the Greek helix "spiral, whirl, convolution" and pteron "wing".

The first helicopter as we know them today was designed by Heinrich Focke in 1936. The first prototype of the Focke-Wulf Fw 61, had its maiden flight on June 26, 1936 with Ewald Rohlfs at the controls.

A replica of Fw 61, ILA 2006 at the Hubschraubermuseum in Bückeburg

Glaswegian Kenneth Watson became the world’s first passenger to ride in a helicopter on October 27, 1939. The development of the aircraft — a Weir 6 — was halted soon afterwards because of World War II.

Russian-born aeronautics engineer Igor Sikorsky emigrated to the U.S. after World War I and became known as the ‘father of the helicopter’. The composer Sergei Rachmaninoff helped him start his aviation company in 1923 with a personal cheque for $5,000.

Sikorsky designed and flew the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300, the first viable American helicopter, which pioneered the rotor configuration used by most helicopters today. The first flight of the VS-300 was on May 24, 1940.

Igor Sikorsky in the VS-300, at the end of 1941

Sikorsky's success with the VS-300 led to the R-4, which became the world's first mass-produced helicopter in 1942.

Helicopters were used in warfare for the first time when the 1st Air Commando Group used a Sikorsky R-4 on April 22-23, 1944 for a combat search and rescue operation in the China-Burma-India border area.

The Sikorsky S-51, the first helicopter to be built for civilian instead of military use, made its first flight in 1946.

Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first US president to ride in a helicopter on July 12, 1957.   The President needed a quick way to reach his summer home in Pennsylvania, as Air Force One could not land at the White House. Eisenhower instructed his staff to look into alternative modes of transportation and a Sikorsky UH-34 Seahorse helicopter was commissioned.

The "Telecopter," the world's first TV news helicopter was introduced by KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles. It made its first successful broadcast on  on July 4, 1958. The "Telecopter" was a Bell Model 47 whose on-board video and audio equipment communicated with a line of sight KTLA transmitter receiver on top of Mount Wilson. For several years, KTLA was the only TV station with a helicopter based TV camera crewed reporting platform.

The AH-64 Apache, the primary attack helicopter for a number of countries, made its first flight. on September 30, 1975. The Apache originally started as the Model 77 developed by Hughes Helicopters for the United States Army's Advanced Attack Helicopter program to replace the AH-1 Cobra.
An AH-64 Apache from the U.S. Army's 101st Aviation Regiment in Iraq

The helicopter world speed record was set on August 11, 1986 when a a specially modified Westland Lynx averaged 249 mph (400kmph) over the Somerset Levels, with newly-designed blades made of plastic with a steel leading edge.

A Boeing 234LR Chinook crashed two-and-a-half miles east of Sumburgh Airport, the main airport serving Shetland in Scotland on November 6, 1986. 45 people were killed, making it the deadliest civilian helicopter crash on record.

 Boeing 234LR Chinook Wikipedia

The  Russian Mil V-12 was the largest helicopter ever built. It could transport 196 passengers.

The top speed of an Apache military helicopter is 176 mph — almost 20 per cent slower than a Lamborghini sports car.

Marine One—the U.S. president's helicopter—has antimissile defenses, ballistic armor, and a quiet interior, so the president needn't shout.

There is no single word for "helicopter" in North Korea.



Second generation German-American, Henry John Heinz (October 11, 1844 – May 14, 1919) began packing foodstuffs on a small scale at Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1869. There he founded Heinz Noble & Company with a friend, L. Clarence Noble, and began preparing and marketing horseradish.

The company went bankrupt in 1875, but the following year Heinz founded another business, F & J Heinz, with his brother John Heinz and a cousin Frederick Heinz. One of this company's first products was he first mass-produced and bottled tomato ketchup.

Henry Heinz sailed with his family to England in 1886. Included in his luggage was a Gladstone bag packed with "seven varieties of our finest and newest goods".  In London, he called on Fortnum & Mason, England's leading food purveyor, whose buyer tasted and promptly accepted all seven products for distribution.

Henry John Heinz in 1917

Henry Heinz started manufacturing baked beans in 1895. He advertised them as "oven-baked beans in a pork and tomato sauce."

In 1896 Henry Heinz introduced the slogan '57 Varieties' for his company. By now  H. J. Heinz Company was actually manufacturing over 60 products but he believed the number "57" had a magical quality.

Heinz was already mass-marketing the first commercially manufactured pickle products to the American public and in 1897 they opened a pickle factory in Holland, Michigan. It is the largest such facility in the world.

The advertising slogan for Heinz Baked Beans, "Beanz Meanz Heinz" was dreamed up by an advertiser Maurice Drake, who said it was "written over two pints of beer in The Victoria pub in Mornington Crescent."


One can of Heinz baked beans is sold in the UK every 17 seconds.

The H. J. Heinz Company's trivia page reveals that it sells 11 billion single-serve ketchup packs per year. "That's 2 packets for every person on earth."

The speed at which Heinz tomato ketchup drips out of its bottle is limited to 0.028 mph (about 1 km a day). If it goes any faster, it is rejected.

The best area to tap on a Heinz ketchup bottle to ensure smooth ketchup flow is where it says "57." Hit the number and your ketchup will garnish your meal faster than shaking the bottle, hitting the bottom or any other technique you’ve attempted.

Heinz had to re-style its ketchup as ‘seasoning’ to sell it in Israel after courts ruled the 21% tomato content fell far short of the 41% needed to meet the country’s food standard for ketchup.

Over 650 million bottles of Heinz Tomato Ketchup are sold around the world each year, with annual sales of more than £1 billion.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce



The word 'hedgehog' comes from the Middle English 'heyg', because of the mammal's love of hedgerows, and 'hoge', from its pig-like snout.

The word “hedgehog” was first seen in English around 1450. Before that, it was called hurcheon, ile, irchepil or irchin.

The hedgehog's four-inch legs allow it to run as fast as a human can walk.

On average a hedgehog's heart beats 300 times a minute.

There are 5,000 to 6,000 sharp spines on a hedgehog's back. They don't have any spines on their face, throat, chest, stomach or legs.

The spikes of a newborn hedgehog begin to appear within 24 hours.

The spikes last about a year each, fall out, and then a new one grows in its place.

Baby hedgehogs' skin is inflated with fluid during birth, keeping the prickles under the surface.

Hedgehogs are immune to snake venom, a trait shared with mongoose, honey badgers, and pigs.


Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals who sleep during the day and come out at night.

In cold climates, hedgehogs hibernate over the winter. In hot climates, they are liable to sleep through the summer. This is called aestivation.

When not hibernating, a normal hedgehog travels a mile a night over a home range of up to 125 acres, in search of food and a mate.


Hedgehogs were brought to New Zealand in the 19th century by homesick British expats trying to make it more like the UK.

The hedgehog, now a much-loved and fiercely protected creature, was once heavily hunted because of the erroneous belief that it sucked milk from the teats of recumbent cows at night.

Half a million bounties were paid for hedgehog heads in the latter half of the 17th and first half of the 18th centuries. The head of a hedgehog was priced at four pennies - four times that of a polecat, wild cat, stoat or weasel.

There were around 1.5 million hedgehogs in the UK in 2006, a decline of around 30% since 2001.

Loss of hedgerows and the spread of intensive farming has reduced cover, leaving country-dwelling hedgehogs at the mercy of hungry badgers, which can use long claws to prise them open, even when they are curled up in a ball.

Suburban areas, where badgers are less common, boast the most hedgehogs, with up to 30 per square mile.

An average of 273 hedgehogs are killed on British roads every day.


There are 17 species of hedgehog.

Hedgehog litters vary between one and 11 babies.

A baby hedgehog is called a hoglet.

Hedgehogs have their own 'Olympic Games', organised by hedgehog fanciers in a different city each year. Males and females are segregated for sprints and hurdles to stop the males from being distracted by female scent.

Sources Daily Mail June 1 2011, The Observer January 7, 2007, Daily Express July 28, 2016,

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Heavy Metal music

William Burroughs is credited with coining the phrase, 'heavy metal.' He used it in his 1961 novel The Soft Machine, describing his character Uranian Willy as "the Heavy Metal Kid."

The Jimi Hendrix Experience's 1967 debut album, Are You Experienced was  highly influential in the development of heavy metal. Hendrix's virtuoso technique would be emulated by many metal guitarists and the album's most successful single, "Purple Haze", is identified by some as the first heavy metal hit.

Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" was the first popular song to use the phrase 'Heavy Metal,' with the lyrics: "I like smoke and lightning. Heavy metal thunder." They weren't talking about a music genre in the song, but were referring to a motorbike.

The first documented use of the phrase “heavy metal” to describe a type of rock music appeared in a review by Barry Gifford. In the May 11, 1968, issue of Rolling Stone, he wrote about the album A Long Time Comin' by Electric Flag: "Nobody who's been listening to Mike Bloomfield—either talking or playing—in the last few years could have expected this. This is the new soul music, the synthesis of white blues and heavy metal rock."

The English rock band Led Zeppelin's 1969 self-titled debut LP is recognized by some as the first major album to be credited with the development of the heavy metal genre. Others cite Black Sabbath's eponymous debut long player, which was released on February 13, 1970.

Led Zeppelin performing at Chicago Stadium in January 1975. By tony morelli  Wikipedia Commons

Black Sabbath started as a blues band called Earth, but changed their name after seeing the Boris Karloff horror movie Black Sabbath. They liked "that people paid money to be frightened".

Charlemagne: The Omens of Death, Christopher Lee's fourth and final album was released on May 27, 2013 – the English actor's ninety-first birthday. It made him the oldest heavy metal performer in history.

Wikipedia Commons

Van Halen's "Jump" was in 1984 the first heavy metal song to top the US pop charts.

Metallica’s "Master of Puppets" was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" enough for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the United States Library of Congress in 2016, the first metal recording to do so.

Finland has the most heavy metal bands, with 53 per 100 000 people.

A Data Scientist revealed that "Burn" is the most metal word in the English language. The study was compiled by taking the frequency of a word appearing in metal lyrics and dividing them by the frequency of the same word as it appears in the Brown Corpus Manual.

By Source, Fair use,

Research has shown that cats get stressed out when they listen to heavy music. If you put headphones on a cat and play it AC/DC music, its heart rate and pupil size will increase. However, when they're played classical music, by contrast, cats' heart rates and pupil sizes decrease.

Termites have been known to eat food twice as fast when heavy metal music is playing.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015


Portable heaters, from simple metal pots to cylindrical structures enclosed by metal bands, were used in ancient Egypt and Greece. The smoke they produced escaped either through the doors of the building or through a hole in the roof.

Warm and hot rooms in Roman times had underfloor heating (hypocaust) with hot air channelled from furnaces.

Jesse Fell, an early political leader in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was the first to successfully burn anthracite on an open air grate. His experiment in 1808 led to the widespread use of coal as the fuel source that helped to foster America's industrial revolution.

Edwin Ruud (1854–1932) was a Norwegian mechanical engineer and inventor who immigrated to the United States and invented the automatic-storage water heater in 1889. His automatic storage tank-type gas water heater  used a bottom gas heater and temperature controlled gas-valve.

Icelandic houses are heated with thermal waters from natural geysers and hot springs.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Heart surgery

The first time heart surgery was performed was on September 4, 1895 at Rikshospitalet in Kristiania, now Oslo. Norwegian surgeon Axel Cappelen ligated a bleeding coronary artery in a 24-year-old man who had been stabbed in the left axillae. The patient awoke and seemed fine for 24 hours, but became ill with increasing temperature and he ultimately died from what the post mortem proved to be mediastinitis on the third postoperative day.

The first successful surgery of the heart, performed without any complications, was by Dr. Ludwig Rehn of Frankfurt, Germany on September 7, 1896. He repaired a stab wound to the right ventricle suffered by 22-year-old gardener Wilhelm Justus.

Until the 1960s if you had a terminally dodgy heart you would be sent to hospital and hooked up to a large, static piece of kit. US engineer Wilson Greatbatch was the first build a reliable fully implantable pacemaker in his garden shed. He tested a prototype on a dog in 1958 and, in 1960, Henry Hannafield, 77, became the first human recipient. Hannafield lived for a further 18 months.

before the heart/lung machine was invented, a doctor oxygenated his patient's blood by routing it through another person. Parents often served this purpose while their children had heart surgery.

Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa on December 3, 1967. A 54-year-old, Louis Washkansky, received a heart from a 24-year-old woman, who had died in a motor accident. He died of pneumonia 18 days later as drugs given to prevent tissue rejection had heightened the risk of infection.

Paul Winchell, who was the voice of Tigger in the Disney movies, was the first person to design and patent an artificial heart.

Frederick West became the first British patient to receive a heart transplant on May 3, 1968 at the National Heart Hospital in Marylebone, London. He died 46 days later from an infection.

61-year-old retired dentist Barney Clark was the first recipient of a permanent artificial heart on December 2, 1982 at the University of Utah Medical Center. He survived for three and a half months with his new heart before succumbing to foreign-body rejection problems.

American baby Stephanie Fae Beauclair died on November 15, 1984, three weeks after the world’s first cross-species heart transplant, having been given a baboon’s heart.

In 1985 William J. Schroeder became the first artificial heart recipient to be discharged from the hospital.

62-year-old former movie stuntman Arthur Cornhill was given the world’s first battery operated heart in a pioneering operation at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, England on August 26, 1994. The heart was made from titanium and plastic and the operation was performed by an 11-man team led by top heart surgeons Sir Terence English and John Wallwork.

Around the world, about 3,500 heart transplants are performed each year. More than half of these are in the United States.

Cardiac surgical procedure at Gemelli Hospital in Rome. By Pfree2014 - Wikipedia Commons

Men are 1.6 times more likely to undergo by-pass surgery than women.

Heart Attack

British actor Gareth Jones died of a heart attack at the age of 33 while performing in a live televised play Underground in 1958 – in which his character was scripted to have a heart attack. The rest of the cast improvised around his death and the director hurriedly redistributing Jones's lines during the interval enabling them to finish the play.

On the day the Netherlands lost to France in a penalty shoot-out at Euro 1996, the death rate from heart attacks and strokes among Dutchmen rose by 50 per cent compared with an average day.

Howard Snitzer, 54, had a massive heart attack at a grocery store in rural Minnesota one wintry evening in 2011. 20 people lined up and performed CPR on him for over an hour and a half until paramedics arrived and he survived.

When a woman has a heart attack, the signs tend to be nausea, shoulder ache and indigestion, not the chest pain that men suffer.

One person in the United States dies of a heart attack every 60 seconds.

Asians are more likely to die from heart failure on the 4th of the month than they are any other day of the month (7.3% death rate above expected), due to increased stress from Tetraphobia (their cultural fear of the number 4). This has been termed the Baskerville effect.

Worldwide, 17.3 million people die every year from heart disease or stroke, which account for 31 per cent of all deaths.

Each year, about 843,000 turkeys die of a heart attack.

"Stayin' Alive" and "Another One Bites The Dust" have the optimum tempo for performing CPR on someone who has just suffered a heart attack. However,.the latter song doesn't seem quite as appropriate.



Aristotle believed that the heart was the source of intelligence and the body's source of heat. He thought that the  main function of the brain was to cool our blood. This belief continued into the Middle Ages.

If you want to imagine how big your heart is, make a fist with your hand. Your heart is about the same size as the fist of your hand.

The heart of an astronaut actually gets smaller when in outer space.

An average man's heart weighs 10-12oz; an average woman's heart weighs 8-10oz.

The right-hand side of your heart pumps blood into the lungs to pick up oxygen, the left side pumps oxygenated blood round the body.

Over a lifetime, the human heart pumps enough blood to fill a football stadium.

The human heart creates enough pressure while pumping to squirt blood 30 feet.

The corneas of your eyes are the only cells in your body that do not receive a blood supply from the heart.

The heart of an unborn baby begins to beat about four weeks after conception.

In an average lifetime, a human heart will beat almost three billion times.

Heart normal anterior exterior anatomy. By Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator - Wikipedia Commons

Women's hearts beat faster than men's: an average of 78 beats a minute compared with 72.

The energy of a day's heart-beating would be enough to drive an average truck 20 miles.

The sound of a heartbeat is the noise made by the four valves of the heart closing.

In Indonesian, the onomatopoeia for a heartbeat is "Dig dag dug."

"Rubatosis" is the unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat.

The human heart is not heart-shaped. A cow's heart is more heart-shaped than a human one.


The heart symbol was created because the Catholic church prohibited autopsies until the 16th century—no one knew what a heart looked like.

The earliest known visual depiction of a heart symbol, as a lover hands his heart to the beloved lady, in a manuscript of the Roman de la poire, which dates to around 1250 (see below).

The use of a heart shape in a logo to signify love was popularized by graphic designer Milton Glaser in his 1977 I [heart] New York poster and T-shirt campaign.

According to the two billion-word Oxford English Corpus, the adjective most often used to qualify the noun 'heart' is 'broken'.


Most mammals' hearts beat around one billion times in their lives. Species with shorter lifespans have faster pulse rates.

A blue whale's heart is the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and you could swim through some of its arteries.

The heart of a blue whale weighs about 1,500 lb

An octopus has three hearts, two to pump blood through the gills, one to pump it around the body..

Source Daily Express

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Hearing aid

The first mention of a hearing aid was made in 1588 by an Italian Giovanni Porta. In a book entitled Natural Magick, he described wooden aids shaped like animal ears.

Carmelite monk Père Sebastian Jean Truchet invented the ear trumpet in the 17th century. His pioneering model was basically a long horn with a large pointed opening at one end.

Electrical hearing aids were invented in 1901 by Miller Hutchinson. These first hearing aids weighed 16 lbs and had to be placed on the user's lap or on an adjacent table. 


Dogs, cats, dolphins, bats, and mice can hear ultrasound.

The maximum upper range of human hearing is about 20 kHz, for dogs about 45 kHz, and for  cats, about 64 kHz.

Exposure to loud noises or music thins the protective coat of myelin around the auditory nerve, resulting in hearing loss.

The word "listen" has the same letters as the word "silent."

Hearing is the fastest human sense. A person can recognize a sound in as little as 0.05 seconds.

The right ear is more efficient for listening to speech, while the left ear is better at listening to music.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Health (Hebrews)

Unlike the many magical and folk medical treatments used by the rest of the world in ancient times, the Hebrews used innovative health techniques given to them by God based on science.

In biblical times, the priests acted as doctors and much of the scriptural legislation dealt with maintaining good health. Of the 613 commandments in the Pentateuch, 213 were of a medical nature, which in the main stressed the importance of social hygiene and preventative medicine.

In the Book of Numbers we see that amongst the instructions given by God to Moses and the Hebrews was that if a woman was suspected of being unfaithful, she was to be taken to a priest and made to drink some impure water. If she was guilty, she was taken ill, if innocent she would have no harmful effects. The emotion of guilt would produce the illness.

In the Book of Deuteronomy we see the Hebrews were told to designate a place outside the camp, where they could relieve themselves. They were told to have as part of their equipment, something to dig with, and when they had finished they should dig a hole and cover up their excrement.

An innovative divine sanitary instruction included in the Book of Numbers ordained that if somebody was to touch a corpse he was considered unclean for seven days and would have to wash with water on the third and seventh days. The washing procedure thereby cleared the unclean person of germs and protected others from exposure to harmful bacteria.

In the Book of Leviticus we see a person with an infectious disease was instructed to wear torn clothes, let their hair go unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out "unclean, unclean." They had to live alone away from anyone else, the first ever example of quarantine. The unusual rituals were to prevent others coming near and catching any contagious diseases for fear of starting an epidemic.

Even the Seventh Commandment "you shall not commit adultery" was God's way of preventing epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases. People with a series of sexual partners ran a high risk of catching such diseases, which they were likely to pass on to later sexual partners, including their spouses.