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Saturday, 31 December 2016

The Passion of the Christ (film)

The Catholic actor Mel Gibson wrote directed and produced a film describing the last twelve hours of the life of Jesus, The Passion of the Christ. He started doing research for the movie in 1992, spending 25 million dollars of his own money on developing and filming the production.

The movie was eventually released on February 25, 2004 and was a massive box office hit despite all the dialogue being in Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin.

The success of The Passion of the Christ was a pointer for Hollywood of the potential goldmine of the Christian constituency, one that had been largely ignored by the secular-orientated film industry.

Theatrical release poster Wikipedia

Gibson himself is a traditionalist Catholic who believes that Vatican II corrupted the
institution of the church. He used the film's profits to build his own private "Independent" Traditional Catholic chapel in his grounds where he claimed to celebrate the Latin Tridentine Mass every day.

Gibson said about the The Passion of the Christ: "This movie is about Faith, Hope, Love and Forgiveness. Themes that are as important now as they were in Jesus' time."

Passion of Jesus

After three years of public ministry, Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem totally aware that he was about to embark on the most significant event ever in human history, sacrificing himself so that the human race might be reconciled with God.

Arrested and convicted as a political rebel, our savior was crucified on a cross, a horrendously painful death. His garments were divided amongst the Roman soldiers present there and they cast lots for his clothing. His body was taken down and placed in a tomb by a rich follower of his, Joseph of Arimethea. The unknown thief on the cross next to Jesus became the first to believe that "Jesus died for me."

Crucifixion by Albrecht Altdorfer

Only a few days later Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his followers. He went on to spend 40 days training and encouraging them before ascending up to heaven. Jesus promised them that there will be a "Second Coming", when he will return to the Earth again.

By taking our sins on the cross, Jesus succeeded in reconciling all sinful beings, past, present and future, to his heavenly Father. By rising from the dead, he has given hope to all mankind that trust in him, of a life after death in the kingdom of Heaven.

The word 'Passion' is from Late Latin: passionem "suffering, enduring."

The passion fruit was so named by Spanish missionaries because they thought it symbolized the nails and thorns of the Crucifixion (or the Passion). 

Friday, 30 December 2016

Passenger pigeon

The passenger pigeon is an extinct long-tailed pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) from North America.

It was the most abundant bird of historical times in the US. John James Audubon reported seeing more than 1 billion passenger pigeons in Kentucky in 1813. The population conceivably exceeded 10 billion, possibly accounting for up to 40 percent of the total population of North American birds.

Live female in 1896/98, kept in the aviary of C. O. Whitman

Migrating in enormous flocks, the passenger pigeon could reach flying speeds of 100 km/h (62 mph). Passing flocks obscured the sky, literally blocking out the sun. The flocks took hours or days to pass a given point. Some accepted estimates of the number of birds in a single flock alone exceeded 2 billion.

The male pigeons were 39 to 41 cm (15.4 to 16.1 in) in length and mainly gray on the upperparts, with iridescent bronze feathers on the neck and black spots on the wings; the females were duller and browner. They looked very similar to mourning doves, a close relative that is still common.

Stuffed male passenger pigeon, Field Museum of Natural History. By James St. John

They inhabited mainly deciduous forests in eastern North America, primarily around the Great Lakes. The Passenger Pigeon fed especially upon the nuts of the beech tree and the acorns of the white-oak tree. The groves of these great trees were its nesting places.

In the 19th century, when widespread deforestation was destroying their habitat, they were commercialized as cheap food and hunted voraciously. Passenger pigeons became such an ordinary dish that many people objected to eating them.

Depiction of a shooting in northern Louisiana, Smith Bennett, 1875

The endless slaughter, combined with the cutting down of the oak forests, was disastrous. The Passenger Pigeon was hunted to extinction in the wild by 1894 and the last specimen, Martha, died in Cincinnati Zoo on September 1 1914, at 1 PM.

The Passenger Pigeon's total elimination within about 150 years is almost beyond comprehension. Eradication of the species has been described as one of the most senseless extinctions induced by humans.

Sources 10,001 Titillating Tidbits of Avian Trivia by Frank S. Todd, Europress Family Encyclopedia, Comptons Encyclopedia



When the bubonic plague gripped Europe during the Middle Ages, ships would be isolated in the harbor for forty days before passengers could go ashore. The Italian word for 40 is quaranta, hence quarantine.

The word 'coach' derives from the name of the Hungarian town Kocs, where multi-passenger wheeled vehicles first appeared around 1500.

Fairman Rogers' Four-in-hand, by Thomas Eakins, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, 1880

The first passengers in the history of aviation were a cockerel, a sheep and a duck, transported for five miles by hot-air balloon in 1783. All emerged unscathed, except for the cockerel which was kicked by the sheep shortly before lift-off.

The Scottish poet Robbie Burns was a passenger when Patrick Miller experimented with a steam-driven vessel on Dalswinton Loch in 1788. Though successful Miller abandoned the project due to the cost.

The world's first-ever railway passengers were Welsh. They travelled from Swansea to Mumbles in a horse-drawn converted truck along a specially-laid iron track in 1807.

The Clermont was the first steamboat to achieve commercial success. It carried passengers between New York City and Albany, New York along the Hudson River, making the 150-mile (240 km) trip in 32 hours.

The 1909 replica of the Clermont Steamboat

The first passenger-carrying steamboat in Europe was the Comet, designed by the Scottish engineer Henry Bell (1767-1830), which was launched in 1812 on the River Clyde. Bell initially advertised a three times a week passenger service travelling between Glasgow, Greenock and Helensburgh. Soon afterwards the journey was extended to Oban and Fort-William, the entire voyage taking four days.

In 1817 the Black Ball Line offered the first regular passenger service with emphasis on passenger comfort running between Liverpool, England and New York City. For the first ten years the passages of the fleet averaged 23 days outward and 40 days to the westward.

The first horse-drawn omnibus service was started by a businessman named Stanislas Baudry in the French city of Nantes in 1823 using two spring-suspended carriages, each for 16 passengers.

The Canterbury and Whitstable Railway, which opened in 1830 was the first steam hauled passenger railway to issue season tickets.

The Electromote was the world's first passenger carrying electric trolleybus, The Electromote was fed through trolley poles by overhead wires and  was presented to the public in 1882 in Halensee, Germany, but was dismantled in the same year after the demonstration.

World's first trolleybus, Berlin 1882

Provisions for the 2,229 passengers and crew on board RMS Titanic when she sailed in April 1912 included 200 barrels of flour, 40,000 fresh eggs, 2.75 tons of tomatoes and 100,000lb of fresh meat, poultry and game. Those in First and Second Class ate their main meal in the evening; Third Class passengers, were served their ‘dinner’ at midday.

Crosswords were so popular among U.S. commuters in the 1920s that the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad provided dictionaries for passengers.

The first scheduled jet airliner passenger service began in May of 1952.with the de Havilland Comet flying between London and Johannesburg, carrying 36 passengers.

NS Savannah, the first nuclear-powered cargo-passenger ship, made her maiden voyage in August 20, 1962.

NS (Nuclear Ship) Savannah, enroute to the World's Fair in Seattle.

In 1996, Venetian gondoliers stopped singing to their passengers to avoid a tax on musicians.

The RMS Queen Mary 2, the largest passenger ship ever built, was christened by her namesake's granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II in 2004.


The Port of Miami is recognized, and has retained its status as the number one cruise/passenger port in the world since the mid-1990s. It accommodates some of the world's largest cruise ships and operations, and is the busiest port in both passenger traffic and cruise lines.

Aerial view of the Port of Miami

Airlines are said to buy 50 per cent of the world's stock of caviar for first-class passengers.

On an average day there are 1.8 million passengers in the sky over the United States.

The Beijing Subway is the world's busiest subway in annual ridership, with 3.41 billion trips delivered in 2014.

Line 2 platform at Xizhimen. By Jucember - Wikipedia

The world’s busiest railway station is Shinjuku in Tokyo, Japan, with a reported 3.64 million passengers passing through its 200-odd exits every day.

Source Daily Mail

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Blaise Pascal


Blaise Pascal was born on June 19, 1623 in Clermont-Ferrand, which is in France's Auvergne region.

Blaise Pascal Versailles. By unknown; a copy of the painture of François II Quesnel, Wikipedia Commons

He lost his mother, Antoinette Begon, at the age of three.

His father, Étienne Pascal (1588–1651), was a local judge and member of the "Noblesse de Robe," who also had an interest in science and mathematics.

Blaise Pascal had one older sister Gilberte, and two younger sisters, only one of whom, Jacqueline, survived past childhood.

Beginning in 1631, his father, Étienne Pascal (1588-1651), devoted himself entirely to the education of his son, who showed extraordinary mental and intellectual abilities, occasionally taking him along to the Academy of Science meetings.


At the age of 16, Blaise Pascal produced a short treatise on what was called the "Mystic Hexagram", and sent it to Père Mersenne in Paris, which included some of the great mathematical thinkers of the time The hypothesis, which is known today as Pascal's theorem, states that if a hexagon is inscribed in a circle (or conic) then the three intersection points of opposite sides lie on a line (called the Pascal line).

In December 1639 the Pascal family left Paris to live in Rouen where Étienne had been appointed as a tax collector for Upper Normandy.

In 1641, while helping his father collect taxes in central France, young Pascal built a calculating machine, the Pascaline, operated by gears and wheels. Though it could only count, not multiply or divide and was not a commercial success, the Pascaline is considered a pioneering forerunner to the later development of mechanical methods of calculation, as well as the modern field of computer engineering.

Early Pascaline on display at the Musée des Arts et Métiers. By Rama, Wikipedia

In 1646, Pascal learned of Evangelista Torricelli's experimentation with barometers. The French scientist built an early form of a barometer, which instead of mercury, used red wine. As wine is less dense than mercury he had to build a tube 46 feet to accommodate the pressure rises and falls.

Pascal questioned what force kept some mercury in the tube and what filled the space above the mercury. Following more experimentation in this vein, in 1647 Pascal proved to his satisfaction that a vacuum existed above the column of liquid in a barometer tube.

The philosopher Rene Descartes visited Pascal on September 23, 1647. During his stay, the pair argued about the vacuum which Descartes did not believe in. Afterwards, Descartes wrote a letter to Huygens in which he said that Pascal"...has too much vacuum in his head."

On September 19, 1648, Florin Périer, husband of Pascal's sister Gilberte, carried out a famous demonstration of atmospheric pressure at the top of Puy-de-dome, the highest mountain in the vicinity of Clermont-Ferrand. Périer measured the height of the mercury column at the lowest elevation in town, where a reading of 711 mm was taken. The other instrument was carried about 1000 metre higher to the top of the mountain, where the height of the column had dropped to 627 mm.

Pascal replicated the experiment in Paris by carrying a barometer up to the top of the bell tower at the church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, a height of about 50 metres. The mercury dropped about two lines. The fact-finding mission was vital to Pascal's theory concerning the cause of barometrical variations and paved the way for further studies in hydrodynamics and hydrostatics.

Pascal also paved the way for the invention of the hydraulic press by Joseph Bramah in 1795. The instrument was based upon the principle that became known as Pascal’s law which stated that the pressure in a fluid contained in a vessel remains the same in all directions regardless of the area to which the pressure is applied.

The Pascal, a SI unit of pressure, was named after Blaise Pascal in honor of his contributions to science in 1971. The Pascal is used to quantify internal pressure, stress. Young's modulus and ultimate tensile strength. It is defined as one newton per square meter.

Pascal made significant contributions to mathematics and published his Traité du triangle arithmétique ("Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle") in 1653. The treatise described a convenient tabular presentation for binomial coefficients, an inverted pyramid of numbers in each was the sum of the two above it. This became known as the Pascal triangle.

Pascal's triangle

In 1654, Pascal was approached by a friend, an aggravated gambler called the Chevalier de Mere, who couldn't understand why he always lost when betting on the appearance of certain combinations in the fall of dice. Prompted by his friend, Pascal corresponded with the mathematician Pierre de Fermat on the subject of gambling problems. Their collaboration led to the development of the mathematical theory of probabilities, which helped de Mere calculate the odds on dice throws and win some money.

The important groundwork laid by Pascal and de Fermat proved to be instrumental in Gottfried Leibniz's formulation of calculus.

In 1661 Pascal proposed a public bus system in Paris and its suburbs. The eight seater coaches went into service the following year. They ran every eight minutes, but were not a success, finding it hard to negotiate the crowded medieval streets. The vehicles were also too small to arouse the public interest after an initial attraction. The company went into liquidation in 1676.

Roulette was invented by Pascal. It was a by-product of his experiments with perpetual motion.


In 1646, Pascal and his sister Jacqueline started identifying with the religious movement within Catholicism known by its detractors as Jansenism. Initiated by Cornelius Jansen, the former Bishop of Ypres, the Jansenism movement aimed at reforming the French Roman Catholic Church from within.

Portrait of Pascal

Pascal's interest in Jansenism was prompted by an incident one icy January day in 1646, when his father rushed out to prevent a duel from taking place. He slipped on the frozen ground, fell hard and dislocated his hip. Two devout Jansenists treated Étienne Pascal, curing him. As a result Blaise Pascal and his sister were drawn to the Scriptures and devoted many hours to the study of God's word.

In 1651 Étienne Pascal died and Jacqueline renounced the world by entering Port-Royal-des-Champs Abbey, a covent of Cistercian nuns in Magny-les-Hameaux, in the Vallée de Chevreuse. The abbeys and schools of Port-Royal were intimately associated with the Jansenist school of theology.

Despite living in a fine mansion and mixing with high society, Pascal was unhappy and unsatisfied. In desperation he turned to his Bible and in the late hours of November 23, 1654, after reading the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John he had a profound mystical vision.

After his conversion experience, Pascal inscribed his testimony on a piece of parchment which he sewed onto his coat. For eight years Pascal hid this story of his salvation sewing and unsewing as he had need. After he died a servant found it. The parchment in his jacket read:

"The year of Grace 1654, Monday Nov 23rd... from about half past ten in the evening until half past 12, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the Philosophers and Scholars. Certainty, feeling, joy and peace God of Jesus Christ... I have separated myself from him, I have fled from him, renounced him, crucified him, may I never be separated from him... renunciation total and sweet. "

Pascal used to drive around Paris in a magnificent four horse drawn coach. In 1654 he was involved in an accident at the Neuilly bridge where the horses plunged over the parapet but the carriage survived. This near death experience is thought to have influenced his conversion.

After his mystical experience, Pascal took refuge in the Jansenist Catholic Monastery of Port Royal under the influence of his sister.

On March 24, 1656, Pascal's 10-year-old niece, Marguerite Périer, was healed of a painful incurable eye affliction by a Jansenist. The healing made a great impression on the public and all Catholic Paris acclaimed a miracle. Pascal regarded the event as a sign of divine favor for the cause of Jansenism. It also confirmed his belief in miracles, a belief that would later be incorporated his great apologetic work the Pensées.

Marguerite Périer 


Blaise Pascal wrote Lettres Provincales under the pseudonym of Louis de Montalte –The first of the lettres was published on January 23, 1656.

Lettres Provincales is made up of 18 letters and pamphlets that were written in an ironic and humorous style in which he attempted to bring deep theological matters to the attention of the masses. In his 18-letter series Pascal criticized the Jesuits, promoted Jansenist teaching and put forward the argument that whilst true faith only belongs to the morally upright God's grace is sufficient for all. "There is a God shaped vacuum in every heart," he wrote.

The traditionally Catholic Louis XIV was incensed about this pro-Jansensist work. The French king ordered that the book be shredded and burnt in 1660.

In 1658 Blaise Pascal set out to prepare a defense of the Christian religion. It was unfinished at the time of his passing, but he left a series of notes which were discovered and were published in 1670 as Pensées. A classic of literature and apologetics, Pascal stated in Pensées that God could be known through Jesus Christ by an act of faith itself given by God.

Pensées contains 'Pascal's wager' which states the French polymath's that belief in God is rational by illustrating a friend waging on extinction after death. Pascal reasoned if he is wrong in his belief in eternal life he will never know but if his friend is wrong in his belief in extinction he will all too definitely know and will lose the opportunity of eternal happiness.
Second edition of Blaise Pascal's Pensées, 1670


Pascal had poor health, especially after the age of 18, and by the 1650s he was becoming ill from overwork.

In June 1662, Pascal was seized with a violent illness, probably stomach cancer, and after two months of agony, he realized he didn't have much longer to live and requested he could die with the poor in the hospital for incurables. His last words were "My God, Forsake me not.”

Pascal died on August 19, 1662 just two months after his 39th birthday. He was buried in the cemetery of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont.

Pascal's epitaph in Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, where he was buried

In 1972 a biopic titled Blaise Pascal was shown on French TV, The seemingly uninspired director Roberto Rossellini said it was about, "A very boring man."

Sources Sunday Telegraph,, Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L Shelley

Wednesday, 28 December 2016



The Greek philosopher Socrates had a large capacity for alcoholic beverages, and at drink and conversation get-togethers called symposium he astounded all who know him with his capacity for remaining sober, even after everyone else in the party had become thoroughly inebriated.

Plato's Symposium, depiction by Anselm Feuerbach

The oldest known party invitation was sent by the Roman Claudia Severa for her birthday party in Northumberland, England around AD100.

The Deipnosophistae ("The professors of dining") is an early 3rd-century AD work by Greek gourmet Athenaeus. This composition on food and food preparation is in the form of an aristocratic dinner party in which a number of learned men, some bearing the names of real persons, such as the famous physician Galen, meet at a banquet and discuss for days food, drink, literature and other subjects. They relate recipes for dishes such as stuffed vine leaves and several varieties of cheesecakes.


Roller-skates made their first recorded appearance at a party in Carlisle House, London in 1760. Belgian inventor Joseph Merlin rolled into the party while playing the violin wore these first roller skates. It was not a successful introduction as the violinist crashed into a large mirror causing nearly a thousand dollars worth of damage.

For her twenty-first birthday, Marie Antoinette participated in a three-day long gambling party, in which huge amounts of money changed hands.

Isambard Brunel staged a dinner party in the Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe for businessmen in 1827 wearing full evening dress.

The sport of badminton derives its name from around 1870, when it was played at a party given by the Duke of Beaufort at Badminton, his estate, and became known as "the Badminton game."

Badminton House in the 19th century.

'Field Tennis' was played in the 18th century, but the game similar to the modern game of lawn tennis was introduced by Major Walter Wingfield at a Christmas party at Nantclywd, Wales, in 1873. His game was called sphairistike.

In 1886 the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII of the United Kingdom) appeared at a dinner party in New York in a short black coat rather than a tailcoat. One of the other guests took the fashion back to Tuxedo Park, an upstate New York countryside enclave for Manhattan's wealthiest citizens. There, the trendy men about town started chopping of their tailcoats, which became known as tuxedos.

The Khodynka Tragedy was a human stampede that occurred on May 30, 1896, on Khodynka Field in Moscow, Russia during a coronation party following the crowning of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II. 1,389 people were trampled to death in a stampede caused by rumors of beer and pretzels at the festivities.

A victim of the stampede

The first ever cocktail party in England was hosted by noted war artist Christopher R.W. Nevinson on April 26, 1924.  Within two years, cocktail parties had changed the English cultural landscape becoming a byword for everything the old disapproved of and the young aspired to.

By takomabibelot - Cocktail Party At The Imperial Hotel: March 13, 1961 

In response to critics calling him a "dictator," Franklin D. Roosevelt once threw a toga party where he played Caesar.

The American Hormel Foods Corporation started marketing Hormel Spiced Ham in the mid 1930s. As it didn't stand out from other brands Jay C Hormel asked his New Year's Eve party guests to help and a Kenneth Daigneau came up with the succinct "spam."

Alfred Hitchcock once threw a dinner party where all the food was colored blue.

16-year-old John Lennon first met 15-year-old Paul McCartney at a St Peter's Parish Church party in 1957 in Woolton, Liverpool.

One of most famous parties of the 20th century, Truman Capote’s Black & White Ball was held at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on November 28, 1966. The masquerade ball was held in honor of The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and cost Capote a total of $16,000. The Black and White Ball was credited with starting an immediate upsurge in masquerade and costume parties.

Actor Will Smith also had a successful career as a rapper under the pseudonym, "The Fresh Prince" as part of a duo with Jeffrey "DJ Jazzy Jeff" Townes. The pair met in 1985 when Townes, who was performing at a house-party near Smith's house, needed a hype man, as his normal guy hadn't shown up. Smith, who was only 17 years old at this point, happily filled in.

The actor Leonardo DiCaprio's face was severely injured when model Aretha Wilson hit him over the head with a broken bottle at a Hollywood party. After pleading guilty in 2010, Wilson was sentenced to prison for two years.

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi  had a volcano built at his 148 acre estate in Porto Rotondo, Sardinia, in 2006. With fireworks and a small earthquake, it was intended as a surprise at a party. Neighbors, unaware, called out he local fire fighters.

Stephen Hawking once tried to lure time travellers to his house by throwing a party then sending out invitations later. Nobody showed up.


The word ‘party’ meaning a part or division, or one side in a dispute dates back to about 1300.‘Party’ was first used for a social event, with food, drink and fun, in the early 18th century.

In the Lonely Planet "1000 Ultimate Experiences" guide of 2009, Belgrade was placed at the 1st spot among the top 10 party cities in the world.

Over two million people gather on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on the night of 31 December, making of it the world's largest New Year's Eve party.

Rio New Year fireworks

During the reign of Catherine I of Russia, the rules for parties stipulated that no man was to get drunk before 9 o'clock and ladies weren't to get drunk at any hour.

Jane Austen was the earliest known writer to use the expression 'dinner-party' in Emma. She wrote in her 1816 novel. "Dinner-parties and evening-parties were made for him and his lady; and invitations flowed in so fast that she had soon the pleasure of apprehending they were never to have a disengaged day."

Six weeks before the Battle of Trafalgar, Lord Nelson spent an exorbitant £308 (about $550) on port as he was planning a monumental party to mark his forthcoming victory.

J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis once showed up at a party dressed as polar bears—it wasn't a costume party.

The singer Taylor Swift was born on December 13, 1989. She has a Christmas-themed birthday party every year.

Taylor Swift has trademarked the phrase," "party like it's 1989."

World Party Day designated as a universal day of coordinated events celebrating "universal human right to fun, peace and life" occurs on April 3rd each year. The inspiration is the novel Flight: A Quantum Fiction Novel, by Vanna Bonta published in 1995, which concludes with a synchronized worldwide celebration that occurs on April 3, 2000.

Americans will hold more parties in their homes on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year.

Sources Daily ExpressDaily Mail


The Parthenon is the principal building of the Athenian Acropolis, a Doric temple of Pentelic marble dedicated to Athena Parthenos ('the Maiden').

Parthenon, Athens Greece. Photo taken in 1978 by Steve Swayne posted to Flickr 

The Athenians begin building the Parthenon in 447 BC, for the political leader Pericles and completed it by 438BC.

The Parthenon was designed by the architects Ictinus and Callicrates under the supervision of Phidias, the Greek sculptor responsible for its 9 m / 30 ft-high gold and ivory cult statue.

The building was constructed using limestone foundations and 22,000 tons of marble. It has 46 Doric columns which support the roof, with 8 across the front and back, and 17 on each side.

Reconstruction of the Acropolis and Areus Pagus in Athens, Leo von Klenze, 1846

What is unique about the Greek temple is the conscious adjustment of these orders by Greek architects for purely aesthetic effect. For the first time in history, architects, not priests, directed these building projects.

One the most famous and beautiful sculptures of all time are those of the horses that form part the great sculpted frieze around the Parthenon. These sculptures, done by the artist Phidias, express the Greek idea of perfection. They show horsemen riding bareback on graceful horses that are portrayed at all gaits as well as performing dressage movements or being "parked up."

Cavalry from the Parthenon Frieze, West II, 2–3, British Museum.

The accounts from the building of the Parthenon were inscribed in stone so they were available to the public. Surviving fragments indicates the budget could have been as much as 800 'talents' - equivalent to 16 million pound today

Converted subsequently into a church, then a mosque, the Parthenon was reduced to a shell by explosion on September 26, 1687 while housing a powder magazine during the Turkish-Venetian war.

Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin took the some of the sculptures, now called the Elgin Marbles, from the Parthenon in 1759. They have been on display in London's British Museum since 1816.

The world's only exact replica of the Parthenon resides in Centennial Park, Nashville and contains the western hemisphere's largest indoor statue.

Today the Parthenon is a World Heritage site.

Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999, Comptons Encyclopedia

Tuesday, 27 December 2016


There are 402 species of parrots, including cockatoos, lovebirds and budgerigars. Of the known parrot species, 387 are extant; the remaining extinct species all went extinct after 1500 AD.


The parrot has been a popular pet in the Western world for more than two millennia. Alexander the Great was the first to introduce the bird. He brought it home from India, as a gift for his teacher, the philosopher Aristotle.

Parrots have featured in human writings and media for thousands of years. From Aesop's fable The parrot and the cat to Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch and movies such as Rio.


Like most other birds, parrots have four toes per foot. But instead of the usual three-in-front-one-behind arrangement, parrot toes are configured for maximum grip: two in front and two behind, like two pairs of opposable thumbs.

The tiny buff-faced pygmy weighs a mere ounce and is about the size of an adult human’s finger.

buff-faced pygmy parrot 

The world’s longest parrot is the hyacinth macaw, checking in at 100 cm (3.3 ft)  from tip to tail.


The Australian parrot Barnardius zonarius semitorquatus is commonly known as 28 because, spoken in an Antipodean accent, its call — ‘wenniate’ — sounds like the number.

The diet of parrots consists of seeds, fruit, nectar, pollen, buds, and sometimes arthropods and other animal prey.

Macaws can eat foods containing substances that are toxic to other animals. Amazon Basin macaws purportedly neutralize toxins by eating the clay from exposed river bank

In captivity parrots can live to at least 60 years.


A parrot's vocabulary is generally no more than twenty words.

African greys associate words with meanings and have a gasp of shape, color and number.

African greys are the best mimics of all parrots. They will imitate doorbells, microwave beeps, telephones and even a smoker's cough,

The first and only non-human animal to ask an existential question was an African Grey parrot named Alex. He asked what color he was, and learned that it was "grey". Apes who have been trained to use sign-language have so far failed to ever ask a single question.

Alex died of natural causes aged 31 on September 6, 2007. His last words were, "You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you."

The Korea Central Zoo in North Korea is home to a Parrot than can squawk 'Long live the Great Leader, Comrade Kim Il-sung' in English.


In 1845, President Andrew Jackson's pet African grey, called Poll, was removed from his funeral for swearing.

Queen Victoria had a parrot called Coco which was taught to sing "God Save The Queen."

A certain parrot was a regular of the Cheshire Cheese pub just off Fleet Street in London at the time of World War I. On Armistice night it repeated some 400 times its trick of imitating the pop of a champagne cork, before collapsing from temporary exhaustion.

The world's oldest ever parrot, Jimmy, died in England on January 5, 1975 at the age of 104.

The oldest living parrot is thought to be Poncho, a green-winged macaw who turned 90 in October 2015 and who retired to Shrewsbury, England after a career in Hollywood. She celebrated with a walnut-stuffed cake.

Puck, a cheery blue parakeet, landed in the 1995 Guinness Book of World Records for his vocabulary skills, with a recognized set of 1,728 words.

Cookie (June 30, 1933 – August 27, 2016) was a male Major Mitchell's cockatoo residing at Brookfield Zoo, near Chicago, United States. He was believed to be the oldest member of his species alive in captivity, at the age of 82 in June 2015, having significantly exceeded the average lifespan for his kind. Cookie was one of the longest-lived birds on record and was recognized by the Guinness World Records as the oldest living parrot in the world


There are an estimated 550 wild parrots living in New York City that were accidentally released from a shipment at JFK airport in the late 1960s.

Veterinarians say obesity is the most common health problem they see in pet parrots today.

Sources,, Daily Mail

Monday, 26 December 2016


The word "parliament" meaning a legislative, elected body of government, comes from the French word parler, which means a talk.

The Althing of Iceland is the oldest parliament in the world. The first althing met near Reykjavik in AD 930. Its convening is taken as the founding date of the Icelandic commonwealth, which survived for more than three centuries until 1262. After Iceland's union with Norway, the Althing still held its sessions apart from a gap of 45 years in the first half of the 19th century. The present parliament building, the Alþingishús, was built in Austurvöllur, Reykjavík in 1881, of hewn Icelandic stone.

Iceland's parliament House, at Austurvöllur in Reykjavík, Wikipedia Commons

The first Parliament in England was summoned by baronial leader Simon de Montfort, then in rebellion against Henry III. It was attended by elected knights of the shires and burgesses plus archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and barons between January 20, 1265 until mid-March the same year. The meetings were held in the Palace of Westminster, now also known colloquially as the "Houses of Parliament".

Thirty years later, Edward I adopted de Montfort's ideas for representation and election in the so-called "Model Parliament" in 1365.

When Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England in 1653, he set up the "Barebones" Parliament, which was made up of Non-conformist churchmen and army officers. It was named "Barebones" after one of the members "Praise God Barebones", a Fleet Street Leatherseller.

The Parliament of England met until it merged with the Parliament of Scotland under the Acts of Union. This union created the new Parliament of Great Britain which first met in 1707.

The Parliament of the United Kingdom is split into three separate parts, the House of Commons (the lower house), the House of Lords (the upper house) and the Monarch. Most legislative power is concentrated in the House of Commons.

The British Houses of Parliament, London

England is often referred to as the 'mother of parliaments' (a phrase coined by John Bright in 1865).

Members are forbidden from eating and drinking in the British Parliamentary chambers with only one exception. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may have an alcoholic beverage while delivering the Budget statement.

Sunday, 25 December 2016



The first parking summons in Britain was issued against a man named William Marshall on November 25, 1896. His summons was later dropped, as people were unsure of the regulations governing "horseless carriages".

The world's first multi-storey car park was opened at 6 Denman Street, central London by The City & Suburban Electric Carriage Company. The car park had seven floors, space for 100 vehicles and an electric elevator to move the vehicles between floors.

The earliest known multi-storey car park in America was built in 1918 for the Hotel La Salle at 215 West Washington Street in the West Loop area of downtown Chicago.

In 1927 Colonel Frederick Lucas and his wife rented some land near White City, London and begun operating a car park. The venture was the foundation of his company, National Car Parks.

The underground car park has now been a part of the British way of life ever since the South Coast resort of Hastings built the first one in 1931.

The world’s first parking meter, Park-O-Meter No. 1, was installed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on July 16, 1935. It was designed by Oklahoma State University engineering professors Holger George Thuesen and Gerald A. Hale who had begun working on the device two years earlier at the request of Oklahoma City, lawyer and newspaper publisher Carl C. Magee.

Parking meter ca. 1940

In 1960, New York City hired its first crew of "meter maids"; all were women. It was not until 1967 that the first man was hired.

The first traffic wardens in the UK hit the London streets on September 19, 1960 and had the power to issue £2 fines. The first ticket issued was slapped on a Ford Popular belonging to Dr Thomas Creighton, who was answering an emergency call at a West End hotel. The ticket was subsequently cancelled.

A total of 344 parking tickets were issued by London’s traffic wardens on their first day of operation in 1960 — each for £2.

"Meter maid" in Stockholm, 

In 1983 a Mercedes in Sloane Street became the first illegally parked car to be clamped in central London.

In 2009, Seoul, South Korea, implemented parking spaces reserved for women to make the city more "lady-friendly."


You can squeeze eight motorbikes in the same parking space as a car.

Lotta Sjolin, a Swede who collects parking meters, was last recorded as owning 292 meters from around the world.

UPS trucks get about 15,000 parking tickets a month in New York City.

The city of Houston, Texas has a program where they train citizens to write tickets for handicap parking violations. After taking a course in proper procedure, you are given the authority to ticket anyone you see parked in a handicap spot without a placard.

Drivers in New York City spend an average of 107 hours per year searching for parking at a cost of $2,243/driver in wasted time, fuel and emissions.

The US, parking spaces take up about 25,000 square miles of land nationwide, an area roughly the size of the state of West Virginia.

In China some parking lots have spaces reserved for female parking. These spaces are wider and make parking easier and reduces accidents.

Source Daily Mail

Matthew Parker

Matthew 'Nosey' Parker (1504-1575), was the original 'Nosey' Parker. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury between 1559 and 1575 in which capacity he devoted much of his time to historical research to discover the roots of the new English church. This involved the archbishop asking many questions of people who had been around during the English church's break with Rome and his relentless questioning combined with his rather long nose caused his critics to dub him "Nosey Parker".

Archbishop Matthew Parker (1504-1575)

Probably Parker's most famous saying, prompted by the arrival of Mary Queen of Scots in England, was "I fear our good Queen has the wolf by the ears"

Matthew Parker was a keen book collector. His De Antiquitate Britannicae Ecclesiae was the first privately printed English book.

Charlie Parker

The jazz saxophone giant Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City, Kansas on August 29, 1920. He was the only child of Adelaide "Addie" (Bailey) and Charles Parker.

In 1939 Charlie Parker (playing at a Harlem jam session) begins experimenting with a style which will be called first ReBop, then Bebop.

Bebop is synonymous with fast improvisation and complicated chord structures and Charlie Parker's exciting alto saxophone flights won him the popular nickname of Bird, yet he played equally creatively in ballads and in heartfelt blues such as "Parker's Mood"'. His broken melodies were rich with surprising accents and highly contrasted rhythms.

Portrait of Charlie Parker in the Three Deuces of New York (N.Y.), in August 1947

The classic bebop combo consisted of saxophone, trumpet, bass, drums, and piano. This was a format used (and popularized) by both Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in their 1940s groups and recordings.

In 1949, the New York night club Birdland was named in Parker's honor. Located at 1678 Broadway, just north of West 52nd Street in Manhattan, it was popular with many of the writers of the Beat generation.

Three years later, jazz pianist George Shearing wrote "Lullaby of Birdland", named for both Parker and the nightclub.

The famous jazz musician Miles Davis started out as a teenager playing bebop with Charlie Parker.

Parker married for the first time when he was 15, and had a succession of four marriages throughout his short life.

Parker and his common-law wife, Chan Berg, lived in the ground floor of the townhouse at 151 Avenue B, across from Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan's East Village between 1950 and 1954.

151 Avenue B in 2011
As a teenager, Parker developed a morphine addiction while hospitalized after an automobile accident, and subsequently became addicted to heroin. He continued using heroin throughout his life, and it caused him to miss performances and be considered unemployable

At one point, due to his excessive drinking and trouble-making, Parker was banned from the Birdland club that beared his name.

Parker's addiction to heroin ultimately contributed to his death. He passed away in New York City on March 12, 1955 at the age of 34 from cirrhosis, internal bleeding and pneumonia caused by a heart attack, whilst watching The Dorsey Brothers' Stage Show on television.

Parker was buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Missouri, in a hamlet known as Blue Summit, located close to I-435 and East Truman Road.

Parker's grave at Lincoln Cemetery

A biographical film called Bird, starring Forest Whitaker as Parker and directed by Clint Eastwood, was released in 1988. The movie stemmed from Eastwood's enthusiasm for Bebop.

Sources Comptons Encyclopedia, Artistfacts

Saturday, 24 December 2016



Julius Caesar conquered the Celtic Parisii tribe on July 8, 51 B.C. The Romans called the place that is now known as Paris, Lutetia, or Lutetia Parisiorum.

When the Romans took Lutetia, they burned and rebuilt the city. But it wasn't in the same spot as it is now. It was 7 miles west of its modern location in Nanterre.

The place got a shorter name, Paris, in 212 AD. The name is derived from its early inhabitants, the Celtic Parisii tribe.

As the Roman Empire began to fall apart in the West, the Germanic tribe called the Franks moved in, taking Paris in 464. In 506, their king Clovis I made it his capital.

Paris was sacked by Viking raiders, probably under the legendary Ragnar Lodbrok on March 29, 845. They withdrew once they had been paid a huge ransom of 7,000 French livres (2,570 kilograms or 5,670 pounds) of silver and gold from Charles the Bald.

When Paris was under siege from a Viking raid in 886, King Charles The Fat didn't bother fighting them. He instead paid them 700 livres (257 kg) of silver to go and raid to the then rebelling Burgundy instead.

 Palais de la Cité and Sainte-Chapelle from the Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry 1410

King Henry III laid the first stone of the Pont Neuf (New Bridge), the oldest bridge of Paris, on May 31, 1578.

The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 in Paris marked the beginning of the French Revolution, leading to many massacres. The population of Paris had dropped by 100,000 to 500,000 during the Revolution, but between 1799 and 1815, it surged with 160,000 new residents.

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, commemorating those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, was formally inaugurated in 1836.

The arch of the Arc de Triomphe is 162ft tall. A few weeks after the end of World War I, French aviator Charles Godefroy flew his Nieuport fighter plane through the Arch to salute all the airmen killed in the war.

The grand boulevards of Paris were built in the mid-1800s partly to make it harder for rioters and revolutionaries to barricade the streets like they had in earlier uprisings. The streets and monuments were illuminated by 56,000 gas lamps, giving it the name "The City of Light."

French President Adolphe Thiers ordered the evacuation of Paris on March 18, 1871 after an uprising broke out as the result of France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. It lead to the establishment of the Paris Commune government. The Commune held power for two months, until it was harshly suppressed by the French army during the "Bloody Week" at the end of May 1871.

Paris hosted the 1889 Universal Exposition, which was held to mark the centennial of the French Revolution and featured the new Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower, under construction in August 1888,

The 1900 Universal Exposition gave Paris the first Paris Métro line. The Paris Métro system was built by engineer Fulgence Bienvenüe and architect Hector Guimard.

The 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris displayed many machines, inventions, and architecture that are now nearly universally known, The fair was where talking films and escalators were first publicized.

Both the second Summer Olympic Games in 1900 and the eighth in 1924 took place in Paris.

A German gun fired a shell into Paris every 20 minutes from a distance of 77 miles over a 139 day period in 1918, killing 1,000 people.

Parisians cheered as Allied troops marched down the Champs-Élysées on August 25, 1944, ending four years of German occupation during World War II.

General Charles de Gaulle on the Champs-Élysées celebrating the liberation of Paris 

The 80,000-seat Stade de France, built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, is located just north of the Paris in the neighboring commune of Saint-Denis.


There's one stop sign in the whole of Paris.

There are 12 roads that radiate out from the Arc de Triomphe. A car accident occurs here roughly every seven minutes.

The word "metro" comes from the French word "metropolitain." The Métro covers over 124 miles with 300 stations and 16 lines. About 4.5 million people daily travel beneath the city on the Paris subway to reach the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, or the Arc de Triomphe. Every building in Paris is less than 500 meters from a train station, so accessibility is never a problem.

Paris has public sparkling water fountains throughout the city to encourage more people to drink water.

In Paris there are 1,803 monuments, 173 museums and 450 parks and gardens in the city.

The Louvre is the most visited art museum in the world.

There are more dogs than children in Paris.

The official city motto of Paris is "Fluctuat nec mergitur", meaning "She is tossed by the waves but does not sink."