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Sunday, 10 December 2017



The Serbs settled in the Balkans in the 7th century, and accepted Christianity in the 9th.

Višeslav of Serbia, who ruled in c. 780 is the first Serbian ruler known by name. Višeslav was a progenitor of the Serbian ruling family, known in historiography as the Vlastimirović dynasty, who ruled the Serbian Principality from the early 7th century until c. 960.

Between 1166 and 1371 Serbia was ruled by the Nemanjić dynasty.The Serbian Kingdom obtained recognition by Rome and the Byzantine Empire in 1217, reaching its peak under Stefan Dušan (c. 1308 – December 20, 1355), in 1346 as a relatively short-lived Serbian Empire, which covered most of the Balkans.

The Proclamation of Dušan's Law Codex in Skopje Fortress in 1349

Following the death of childless Emperor Uroš the Weak in 1371, the Serbian Empire was left without an heir and the once-powerful state fragmented into duchies, culminating in the 1389 Battle of Kosovo against the rising Ottoman Empire.

The Serbian Despotate, a successor of the Serbian Empire survived for 70 more years, before it was finally conquered by the Ottomans in 1459.

On February 14, 1804 Karađorđe Petrović led the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire. This and a second uprising led by Milosh Obrenovich forced the Turks to recognize Serbia as an autonomous principality under Obrenovich on July 26, 1817.

The Uprising at Takovo (1889), by Paja Jovanović

The assassination of Karađorđe Petrović in 1817 on Obrenovich's orders gave rise to a long feud between the two houses.

The Principality of Serbia was ruled by the House of Obrenović throughout the remainder of the 19th century, save for the rule of Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević between 1842 and 1858.

On the assassination of the last Obrenovich in 1903 the Karageorgevich Dynasty descendants of Karađorđe Petrović came to the throne.

The two Balkan Wars of 1912-13 greatly enlarged Serbia's territory at the expense of Turkey and Bulgaria.

Serbia's designs on Bosnia and Herzegovina, backed by Russia, led to friction with Austria-Hungaria. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated by a Serbian on June 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The ensuing domino effect resulted in the First World War.

Serbia was completely overrun in 1915- 16, and was occupied until 1918, when it became the nucleus of the new kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later named Yugoslavia.

Between 1991-92 Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina all broke away from Yugoslavia. The breakup had a variety of causes including nationalism, economic difficulty and ethnic problems. Serbia and Montenegro were the last two republics remaining and in 1992, they formed a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia & territories of Serb breakaway states  Wikipedia

For most of its existence the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was involved in a series of ethnically-based wars and insurgencies. There was much ethnic violence during the Yugoslav Wars including mass genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1995) and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo (1998). In 1999 Serbia was bombed by NATO forces.

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was led by the controversial statesman Slobodan Milosevic from 1997 until 2000. The fall of Milošević ended Yugoslavia's international isolation.

In 2003, the country dropped the name Yugoslavia in favor of a state union. It was rechristened Serbia and Montenegro.

The National Assembly of Serbia unanimously adopted new state symbols for Serbia in 2004: "Boze Pravde" (English: "God of Justice") became the new national anthem and the coat of arms was adopted for the whole country.

In 2006 The Republic of Montenegro held a referendum proposing independence from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. The Montenegrin people chose independence with a majority of 55%.

The flag of Serbia is a tricolor consisting of three equal horizontal bands, red on the top, blue in the middle and white on the bottom. The same tricolor, in altering variations, has been used since the 19th century as the flag of the state of Serbia and the Serbian nation. The current form of the flag with a visual redesign of the coat of arms was officially adopted on November 11, 2010.

Serbian flag

The country's capital Belgrade covers 3.6% of Serbia's territory, and 22.5% of the country's population lives in the city.

Over 31% of Serbia is covered by forest.

National parks take up 10% of Serbia's territory.

On Mother's Day in Serbia, it's the mothers who give presents to their children.

The actor Steven Seagal was given Serbian citizenship after starting a martial arts school in Belgrade and giving Aikido lessons to Serbian Special Forces.

"Serbia" is an anagram of "rabies". No other country is an anagram of a fatal disease.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Sequoia tree

Sequoia is a genus of redwood trees in the Cupressaceae family. It includes the largest trees in the world.

The Redwood Highway, at Jedediah Smith State Park nr Crescent City, Calif. By Acroterion

The generic name commemorates the great Cherokee Indian Sequoyah (or Sequoya) (1760 – 1843), who gave his people an 'alphabet' for their language.

The only living species of the genus is the Sequoia sempervirens. They comprise the Dawn Redwood, Coast Redwood, and Giant Sequoia.

Fossil remains of extinct species Sequoia as old as the Jurassic Period are widely dispersed in the Northern Hemisphere. These include Sequoia affinis, Sequoia chinensis in China, Sequoia langsdorfii, Sequoia dakotensis of South Dakota, and Sequoia magnifica.

The dawn redwood is native to Lichuan county in Hubei province, China. Although the least tall of the redwoods, it grows to at least 200 feet (60 meters) in height.

The coast redwood occupy a narrow strip of land approximately 750 km (470 mi) in length and 5–47 mi (8.0–75.6 km) in width along the Pacific coast of North America in northern California and southern Oregon.

The coast redwood can reach 115 m (377 ft) tall with a trunk diameter of 9 m (30 ft). making it the tallest tree on Earth.

Coast Redwoods in Redwood National and State Parks

The current tallest tree is the Hyperion tree, measuring 379.3 ft (115.61). The tree was discovered in Redwood National Park on August 25, 2006 by Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor, and is thought to be the world's tallest living organism.

The giant sequoia is the largest of living trees, having enormous bulk, up to some 30 metres/ 100 feet at the base, as well as being almost as tall as the redwood.

Most giant sequoias grow in 77 scattered groves on the westerly slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Placer to Tulare counties in California. These groups were formed as a protection from logging.

European-Americans first stumbled upon giant sequoias in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in 1853. It was brought into cultivation in Britain the same year by the horticulturist Patrick Matthew of Perthshire from seeds sent by his botanist son John in California.

Giant sequoia has been grown as an ornamental tree elsewhere in the US, as well as western and southern Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

A giant sequoia avenue at Benmore Botanic Garden, Scotland. Dougie Macdonald

The most famous area with giant sequoia trees is Sequoia National Park, in California which contains five out of the ten largest trees in the world. The park was made as the second national park, after the Yellowstone in 1980.

Several trees in Sequoia National Park have been named, for example General Grant, the Grizzly Giant or General Sherman.

General Sherman is the largest known living single stem tree on Earth boasting a mass of 52,500 cubic feet.

General Sherman Tree, in Sequoia National Park

The giant sequoia is, except for the bristlecone pine, the oldest of living trees, some specimens having been known to have lived more than 3000 years. The oldest living sequoia, The President, located in California's Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, is estimated to be about 3200 years old.

Friday, 8 December 2017

September 11 attacks

The September 11 attacks were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by 19 members of the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda on the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Two hijacked aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, while a third smashed into The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, and a fourth into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The north face of World Trade Center immediately after being struck  By Robert 


The terrorists believed that they were Holy Warriors. Their absolute revulsion towards America caused them to believe that they were carrying out God's will. Many Americans had previously been unaware of the hatred many Moslems haves towards the decadent Christian Western world.


American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767, was the first hijacked airplane of the September 11, 2001 attacks. It crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Flight paths of the four planes used on September 11

The American Airlines airplane was scheduled to fly from Logan International Airport in Boston to Los Angeles International Airport. Fifteen minutes after takeoff, the hijackers forced their way into the cockpit. One of the hijackers was a trained pilot. He took the controls of the aircraft and flew it into the North Tower.

92 people died in the Flight 11 crash—five hijackers, 76 other passengers, and 11 crew members. The time of the crash was 08:46 Eastern Daylight Time.

The crash, and the fire that started right after the crash, made the North Tower collapse. The attack both killed and injured thousands of people.

United Airlines Flight 175 was also scheduled to fly from Boston to Los Angeles. The Boeing 767-200 operating the route was hijacked by five al-Qaeda terrorists and crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center 17 minutes after the American Airlines Flight 11 flew into the North Tower.

American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked by Islam terrorists and flown into the western side of the Pentagon, killing 189 people.

The attack on the Pentagon took place exactly 60 years after its construction began.

It was the first significant foreign attack on Washington's governmental facilities since the city was burned by the British and Canadians during the War of 1812.

The Pentagon was damaged by fire and partly collapsed

The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was initially steered toward Washington, D.C., but crashed into a field, after its passengers tried to overcome the hijackers.

91,4 % of the 9/11 survivors put off evacuation to go to the bathroom or shut down computers before evacuating.

There was only one airplane allowed to fly in the US on 9/11 after the attacks. It was a flight from California to Florida that was carrying anti-venom for a man that was bitten by a venomous snake. The plane was accompanied by two fighter jets.

When the US Airspace was shutdown following the attacks, Canada took in 255 flights bound for the USA making this known as Operation Yellow Ribbon. There were over 30,000 people on all 200 flights. Many Canadians hosted the passengers at home for several days.


The attacks killed 2,996 people directly. Another three have since died of causes related to smoke inhalation. Eleven unborn babies also died.

6,000 others were injured, and there was at least $10 billion worth of damage in infrastructure and property damage.

An injured victim of the Pentagon attack is evacuated

Works by Pablo Picasso and David Hockney were among the estimated $100 million of art lost in the attacks.

The first recorded casualty was Father Mychal Judge the Franciscan chaplain of the New York City Fire Department who was among the first on the scene at Ground Zero. While helping out and delivering last rites, he was struck on the head by falling debris.

A guide dog, Roselle, led her blind owner and a woman blinded by debris from the World Trade Centre during the attacks of 9/11.


On the morning of September 12, 2001, the New York Times ran a headline: "America's Emergency Line: 9/11". That was the first use in print of the nine-eleven name by which the attacks became known. 911 is, of course, the emergency phone number in the US as well as the way Americans write the date of September 11.

The day after 9-11, Queen Elizabeth II broke a 200 year old tradition and ordered the US National Anthem to be played during the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.

It took firefighters 100 days to put out all the fires ignited by the 9/11 attacks in New York.

The cost of cleaning up the 1.8 million tons of debris after 9/11 is estimated as $750 million.

The phrase 'Ground zero', used for the site of the World Trade Center, was originally used to refer to the site of the atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima in 1945.

A fireman looks up at the remains of the South Tower.

In 2002, a high school student 'inspired by 9/11' flew a stolen Cessna plane into the Bank of America building. He was the only casualty.

September 11 is now remembered as Patriot Day in the US in memory of those killed.


In the 1999 movie The Matrix, Neo's passport expires on September 11, 2001.

Martin Scorsese ends his 2002 film Gangs of New York with a shot of the New York skyline including the World Trade Center Towers even though the shooting of the movie was finished after the buildings were destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11. Scorsese chose to end with that shot rather than continue with a skyline without the World Trade Center because the movie is supposed to be about the people who built New York not those who tried to destroy it.

Here are some songs inspired by the September 11 attacks.

Source Daily Express

Thursday, 7 December 2017


Seoul is the biggest city of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and its capital. Its official name is Seoul Special Metropolitan City.

By 서울특별시 소방재난본부(Seoul Metropolitan Fire & Disaster HQ


Seoul was founded in 18 BC by the people of Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. At that time, the name of the city was Wiryeseong.

In the 11th century the Goryeo kingdom established in 918 by King Taejo, built a summer palace in what is now Seoul, which was referred to as the "Southern Capital". It was only from this period that Seoul became a larger settlement.

Seoul was known as Hanseong after the establishment of Joseon Dynasty in July 1392, and Hanseong became the capital of Joseon Kingdom.

Gyeongbokgung was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. Built in 1395 in Hanseong, it is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Korean dynastic kingdom. Gyeongbokgung served as the home of Kings of the Joseon dynasty, the Kings' households, as well as the government of Joseon.

Geunjeongjeon, the main throne hall By Blmtduddl at  Wikipedia

During the Joseon dynasty, the gates of Hansong were opened and closed each day, accompanied by the ringing of large bells at the Bosingak belfry.

After the annexation treaty in 1910, the Empire of Japan annexed Korea and renamed the city Gyeongseong. The city was liberated at the end of World War II.

Seoul's current name comes from the Korean word meaning “capital city.” Since South Korea was founded in 1948, Seoul has been the country's capital, except for a short time during the Korean War.


Seoul is in the northwest of South Korea. The city comprises 605.25 square kilometres (233.69 sq mi) with a radius of approximately 15 kilometres (9 mi), roughly bisected into northern and southern halves by the Han River.

Seoul Special Metropolitan City is the world's 17th largest city, and forms the heart of the Seoul Capital Area, which includes the surrounding Incheon metropolis and Gyeonggi province.

The Seoul Capital Area houses about half of South Korea's population of 51.44 million people.

The Seoul Special Metropolitan City has a population of 10 million which is about one fifth of that of South Korea.

Gangnam District is one of the 25 gu (local government districts) which make up the city of Seoul. Psy's 2012 number one "Gangnam Style" was made to poke fun at people who put on airs and pretend to be classy, like people from the Gangnam district of Seoul.

Gangnam Commercial Area By Joop - Flickr

The Seoul Capital Area contains five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Changdeok Palace, Namhansanseong, Jongmyo Shrine, Hwaseong Fortress, and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.

Seoul is surrounded by mountains, the tallest being Bukhansan, the world's most visited national park per square foot. Because of its height (836.5 meters or 2,744 ft), and the fact that it borders a considerable portion of the city, Bukhansan is a major landmark visible from most city districts.

Seoul hosted the 1986 Asian Games, the 1988 Olympic Games and was one of the venues for the the 2002 FIFA World Cup. It also hosted the 2007 World Schools Debating Championships.

The most famous associated football team in Seoul is FC Seoul. Their stadium is Sang-am World cup Stadium. It can seat 66,806 people.

Seoul has many stadiums such as the Olympic stadium, Sang-am World Cup Stadium, Jamsil Stadium and Mokdong Stadium. The Olympic Stadium was built in 1988 and was used for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics that year. The World Cup stadium was used for several games in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Seoul’s transportation dates back to the Korean empire, when the first streetcar lines were laid and a railroad between Seoul and Incheon was completed.

Seoul is connected to every big Korean city by the Korea Train eXpress high speed train, which travels at more than 300km/h(186mph).

The metro system in Seoul opened in 1974. Its 5.6 million daily riders can visit the city's financial institutions and its many palaces.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


Senegal is named after the Senegal river, a 1,086 km (675 mi) long river in West Africa that forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania.

The Senegal River estuary near Saint Louis, Senegal. By Radosław Botev

The name "Senegal" comes from the Wolof "Sunuu Gaal", which means "Our Boat."


Portuguese explorers first arrived in the area which is now Senegal when they came to Gorée Island off the coast of Dakar in the 15th century.

Various European powers—Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Portugal—competed for trade in the area from the 15th century onward. These European countries used Gorée Island as a trading post in slaves from the mainland, controlled by the Muslim Wolof Empires. In 1677, France gained control of the island.

Slave traders in Gorée, 18th century.
In the 1850s the French began to expand onto the Senegalese mainland after they abolished slavery and began promoting an abolitionist doctrine. The French started to conquer the Wolof and by 1854 Senegal had a French governor. In 1902 it became a part of the French colony French West Africa.

In January 1959, Senegal and the French Sudan became one to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on June 20, 1960, as a result of the independence and transfer of power agreement signed with France on April 4, 1960.

This did not last long and due to internal political difficulties, the Federation broke up on August 20, when Senegal and French Sudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) each broke apart into separate nations.

The flag of Senegal is a tricolour consisting of three vertical green, yellow and red bands charged with a five-pointed green star at the centre. Adopted in 1960 to replace the flag of the Mali Federation, it has been the flag of the Republic of Senegal since the country gained independence.

Leopold Sedar Senghor (October 9, 1906 – December 20, 2001), leader of the Sengalese Progressive Union, was the country's first president. Senghor was also Prime Minister between 1962 and 70. Pro-African, he advocated a brand of African socialism.

Educated in France, Senghor was a poet and he personally drafted the Senegalese national anthem, "Pincez tous vos koras, frappez les balafons".

The Sengalese Progressive Union was the only legal party from 1966 until in December 1976 it was reconstituted as PS (Socialist Party) and two opposition parties were legally registered.

In 1978 Senghor was decisively re-elected. He retired at the end of 1980 was succeeded by his handpicked successor Abdul Diouf who declared an amnesty for political offenders and permitted more parties to register.

Leopold Sedar Senghor By Bundesarchiv

Between 1982 and 1989 Senegal and The Gambia joined together to make Senegambia.

The African Renaissance Monument built in 2010 in Dakar is the tallest statue in Africa.

Today, Senegal is a republic with a presidency; the president has been elected every five years since 2001.


Senegal covers a land area of almost 197,000 square kilometres (76,000 sq mi) and has an estimated population of about 15 million. The population density is 64 people/km2.

Senegal's economic and political capital is Dakar. It is by far the largest city in Senegal, with over two million residents.

Senegal is the westernmost country in the mainland of the Old World, or Afro-Eurasia.

The climate is tropical with two seasons: the dry season and the rainy cold season. The rainy season is between June and October. The average temperature on the coast is about 24° C, and inland about 27° C.

Lake Retba or Lac Rose (meaning Pink Lake) lies north of the Cap Vert peninsula of Senegal, some 30 km (18 miles) north-east of Dakar. It is named for its pink waters caused by Dunaliella salina algae and is known for its high salt content, up to 40% in some areas.

Boats on Lake Retba. By Bernard bill5 

The Senegalese landscape consists mainly of the rolling sandy plains of the western Sahel which rise to foothills in the southeast. The highest peak is Nepen Diakha, which is 581 m above sea level.

Senegal is a secular state. The main religion is Islam, practiced by approximately 94% of the country's population; the Christian community, at 5% of the population, are mostly Roman Catholics.

The motto of the country is “One people, one goal, one faith”.

Hospitality is given such importance in Senegalese culture that it is widely considered to be part of the national identity. The Wolof word for hospitality is "teranga" and it is so identified with the pride of Senegal that the national football team is known as the Lions of Teranga.

Senegal is known across Africa for its musical heritage, due to the popularity of mbalax, which has been popularized by Youssou N'Dour, Omar Pene and others.

In Senegal, xylophones have been used as part of initiation ceremonies, played by young girls and boys. Among other practical uses, it was also used to scare birds, monkeys, and other pests out of the gardens.

Monday, 4 December 2017


The first ever senate was the Roman Senate. The term "senator" means "elder" in Latin.

The Roman Emperor Caligula raised his favorite horse Incitatus to the rank of senator. When his mount died, it was deprived of its privileges.

In ancient Rome, senators were forbidden to marry the daughter of an actor or actress.

Representation of a sitting of the Roman senate: Cicero attacks Catiline, 

The Roman Senate lasted until 580 (various efforts to revive it were made in Medieval Rome). In the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Senate continued until the Fourth Crusade, circa 1202–1204.

In a modern democracy, a senate is a group of people who pass or change laws for their country, state, or other area. Members of a senate are called senators. Some of these legislatures are Bicameral, meaning they have two separate groups of people called houses.

Modern democratic states with bicameral parliamentary systems are sometimes equipped with a senate, often distinguished from an ordinary parallel lower house, called a House of Representatives, House of Commons, or Assembly by electoral rules. Typically, the senate is referred to as the upper house and has a smaller membership than the lower house. In such legislatures, both houses must pass the same bill to make it a law.

Modern democratic systems having legislatures with senates include the United States of America, Canada, Australia and all US states  with the exception of Nebraska (whose legislature is a unicameral body called the “Legislature” but whose members refer to themselves as “senators”).

The debating chamber of the Senate of the Czech Republic By Krokodyl

In 1879 James Shields, who had previously served Illinois and Minnesota, began a term as a U.S. Senator from Missouri. He was the first Senator to serve three states.

The Unitarian clergyman Edward Everett Hale was appointed Chaplain of the United States Senate in 1903. He was asked in this capacity whether he prays for the senators, whereby he replied, "No I look at the senators and pray for the country."

Charles Curtis of Kansas became the first Native American U.S. Senator on January 29, 1907.

From 1789 until 1913, Senators were appointed by legislatures of the states they represented. Following the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, they are now popularly elected.

A class photo of the 111th United States Senate
Rebecca Latimer Felton was the first woman US. Senator. The most prominent woman in Georgia in the Progressive Era, she was honored by appointment to the Senate. She was sworn in November 21, 1922, and served just 24 hours. At 87 years, nine months, and 22 days old, Felton was also the oldest freshman senator to enter the Senate.

Margaret Chase Smith of Maine became the first woman elected to the US Senate without completing another senator's term, when she defeated Democratic opponent and was elected United States senator on September 13, 1948. She also was the first woman to serve in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

Senator Margaret Chase Smith

When Hillary Clinton decided that she wanted to be Senator, she chose New York even though she never lived there. She went on to win the election becoming the first First Lady in US history to seek a political office and win a political office.

US Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina set a filibuster record in the U.S. Senate on August 19, 1957. He spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

Women were not allowed to wear trousers on the US Senate floor until 1993 when two senators defied the ban. Later that year the rule was amended to allow women to wear trousers.

Carol Elizabeth Moseley Braun represented Illinois in the United States Senate from 1993 to 1999.
She was the first female African-American Senator, the first African-American U.S. Senator for the Democratic Party and the first woman to defeat an incumbent U.S. Senator in an election.

Carol Moseley Braun, United States Senator from Illinois

When Tammy Baldwin defeated her Republican opponent, former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson, in the 2012 U.S. Senate election, she became the first openly gay U.S. Senator in history.

At 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) tall, Luther Strange (born March 1, 1953) of Alabama is the tallest United States senator in American history.

Sunday, 3 December 2017


A selfie is a self-portrait photograph, which is typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone. Selfies are often shared on social networking services such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Some people use a "selfie stick" to hold the camera.

"Selfie" typically refers to casual self-portrait photos taken with the camera held at arm's length, as opposed to those taken by using a self-timer or remote.

Rembrandt van Rijn, the 17th century master of the pre- camera selfie, painted at least 64 self-portraits.

One of the first self-portraits was taken in 1839 by Robert Cornelius, an American photographer. Because the process was slow he was able to uncover the lens, run into the shot for a minute or more, and then replace the lens cap.

Photographic self-portrait by Robert Cornelius, 1839
The first known use of the word selfie in any paper or electronic medium appeared in an Australian internet forum on September 13, 2002. Australian student Nathan Hope posted a picture of his split lip after a drunken party stating. “Sorry about the focus, it was a selfie,”

The Sony Ericsson Z1010 mobile phone, released in late 2003, introduced the concept of a front-facing camera. The Z1010's front-facing camera had a sensor for selfies and video calls

The term "selfie" was first used officially by photographer Jim Krause in 2005. He wrote in his book Photo Idea Index "A 'selfie' is one of those images that is taken by aiming the camera at yourself. The guesswork that goes into taking selfies often results in serendipitous photographic surprises."

Initially popular with young people, selfies gained wider in the early 2010s. By the end of 2012, Time magazine considered selfie one of the "top 10 buzzwords" of that year.

After the Curiosity rover landed on Mars in 2012, it took its first space selfie, which was posted on its Facebook account the following day.

In 2011, a crested black macaque snatched a wildlife photographer's camera, and took a photo of herself grinning. The selfie established a legal precedent when in 2016, a federal judge ruled that the monkey cannot own the copyright to the images.

Monkey selfie" of a macaque who had picked up a camera.

"Selfie" was officially accepted for use in the word game Scrabble in August 2014.

The most selfies taken in three minutes is 166. The record was achieved by American David Rush at MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, on June 10, 2017.

Saturday, 2 December 2017



A seed is an embryonic plant enclosed in a protective outer covering. It is a reproductive structure which disperses, and can survive for some time.

Many seeds are edible and the majority of human calories comes from seeds, especially from cereals, legumes and nuts.

Brown flax seeds

Many structures commonly referred to as "seeds" are actually dry fruits. For instance, sunflower seeds are sometimes sold commercially while still enclosed within the hard wall of the fruit, which must be split open to reach the seed.


Seeds develop from a fertilized ovule and consist of an embryo and a food store, surrounded and protected by an outer seat coat, called the testa. The food store is contained either in a specialized nutritive tissue, the endosperm, or in the cotyledons of the embryo itself.

In angiosperms (flowering plants) the seed is enclosed within a fruit, whereas in gymnosperms (a group of seed plants which includes conifers, cycads and Gnetales) it is usually naked and unprotected, once shed from the female cone.


Following germination the seed develops into new plants but there may be a delay in germination to ensure growth occurs under favorable conditions.

When the seed is ready to develop, it needs water, air and warmth but not sunlight to become a seedling.

Seeds may be dispersed from the parent plant in a number of different ways. Agents of dispersal include animals, as with barrs and fleshly edible fruits, or wind, where the seed or fruit may be winged or plumed. Dandelion seeds are contained within achenes, which can be carried long distances by the wind.


Water can disperse seeds of fruits that float, and various mechanical devices may eject seeds from the fruit, as in some pods are legumes.


Seeds are very diverse in size. The dust-like orchid seeds are the smallest, with about one million seeds per gram; they are often embryonic seeds with immature embryos and no significant energy reserves.

The largest seed is produced by the Coco de mer, or "double coconut palm", Lodoicea maldivica. The entire fruit may weigh up to 23 kilograms (50 pounds) and usually contains a single seed.

Female coco de mer growth Wikipedia

Almost 2,000 carrot seeds will fit into, a teaspoon.


The seed drill is a machine for sowing cereals and other seeds, developed by Jethro Tull (1674 –  February 21, 1741), in England in 1701. The seeds are stored in a hopper and delivered by tubes into furrows made in the ground by a set of blades called coulters attached in front. A harrow is drawn behind the drill to cover up the seeds.

Before Tull's invention, people sowed seeds by scattering them by hand. Tull's machine could plant several rows of seeds at regular intervals, which meant that less seed was wasted. Tull used his first seed-drill on his own farm without telling anybody else for thirty years. His invention was the first step in the use of machines in British agriculture.

1902 model 12-run seed drill Monitor Manufacturing Company. By trekphiler

During the Siege of Leningrad in World War II, nine Soviet scientists died of starvation while protecting the world's largest seed bank, refusing to eat what they saw as their country's future.
2,000-year-old seeds were discovered in 1963 inside an ancient jar in Israel. They were planted in 2005 and a tree that had been extinct for over 1800 years sprouted.

The ceremonial "first stone" of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a facility established to preserve a wide variety of plant seeds from locations worldwide in an underground cavern in Spitsbergen, Norway, was laid on June 19, 2006. There arctic vault stores over 860,000 different varieties of food crop seeds as an insurance policy for the world’s food supply.

Seed storage containers on metal shelving inside the vault. By NordGen/Dag Terje Filip Endresen


Samuel Ryder, founder of golf's Ryder Cup, made his fortune selling packets of garden seeds.

The world record for spitting a watermelon seed is 65 feet 4 inches.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Secretary of state

The secretary of state was original the title given under Elizabeth I of England to each of two officials conducting the royal correspondence.

The Secretary of State is now a title held in the UK by number of the more senior ministers, for example, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth affairs.

In the Vatican City the Cardinal Secretary of State is the head of the Roman Curia which is the cabinet of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church.

In the United States federal government, the Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, and is responsible for foreign policy. The position was created in April 6, 1789 and Thomas Jefferson was the first Secretary.

Thomas Jefferson in 1791 at 49 by Charles Willson Peale

The Secretary of State is the highest-ranking member of the US Cabinet.

When Charles de Gaulle withdrew France from NATO and ordered all US troops out, Secretary of State Dean Rusk asked him for clarification, "Does your order include the bodies of American soldiers in France's cemeteries?"

Czech-born Madeleine Albright was the first female US Secretary Of State. She served from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton during his second term.

Madeleine Albright

Colin Powell was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under U.S. President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African American to serve in that position.

During her term as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton used her position to make women's rights and human rights a focus of U.S. initiatives


The term "secretary" is derived from the Latin word secernere, "to distinguish" or "to set apart", with the connotation of something private or confidential, as with the English word secret. A secretarius was a person, therefore, overseeing business confidentially, usually for a powerful individual, such as a king or pope. For instance, Saint Jerome was secretary to Pope Damasus from AD 382 to 385.

Saint Jerome by the Le Nain brothers, 1642-43
From the Renaissance until the late 19th century, men involved in the daily correspondence and the activities of the powerful assumed the title of secretary. For instance, in 1498 Niccolo Machiavelli was promoted to the rank of second chancellor and secretary to Florentine head of state Piero Soderini. This post he retained until the year 1512.

Shortly after his priestly ordination, Desiderius Erasmus accepted the post of secretary to the Bishop of Cambrai, Henry of Bergen, on account of his great skill in Latin and his reputation as a man of letters.

Holbein Erasmus

For a period in 1736, the founder of the US state of Georgia James Oglethorpe's secretary was John Wesley's brother, Charles, later well known as the hymn writer of Methodism.

After the chemist and inventor Humphry Davy damaged his eyesight in an accident with nitrogen trichloride, he employed the young Michael Faraday as a secretary.

From 1743 to 1744, Jean Jacques Rousseau had an honorable but ill-paying post as a secretary to the Comte de Montaigue, the French ambassador to Venice. Rousseau's employer routinely received his stipend as much as a year late and paid his staff irregularly. After 11 months, Rousseau quit, taking from the experience a profound distrust of government bureaucracy.

In 1870, Sir Isaac Pitman founded a school where students could qualify as shorthand writers to "professional and commercial men". Originally, this school was only for male students.

The Mexican president, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna who led the sacking of the Alamo fortress in San Antonio was exiled in Staten Island, New York. In 1871 he asked his secretary Thomas Adams to find a substitute for rubber.  Adams first tried to formulate the gum into a rubber suitable for tires. When that didn't work he made the chicle into a chewing gum called Chiclets, which is still produced today

The inventor Nikola Tesla openly expressed disgust for overweight people. Once, he fired his secretary solely because of her weight.

In 1914 the novelist and poet Thomas Hardy married Florence Dugdale a Dorchester JP who was his secretary. Thomas was 74 and Florence a feeble, slight, drab, manipulative 35-year-old brunette.

With an increasingly busy social schedule due to husband Franklin Roosevelt’s new political responsibilities, Eleanor Roosevelt hired a personal secretary, named Lucy Mercy. Eleanor was shocked when, in 1918 she learnt of her husband's prolonged public affair with Mercy.

Eleanor Roosevelt campaigned for her husband's election to the American presidency but whilst he was in the White House Franklin took several mistresses including another secretary Marguerite “Missy” Lehand.

With the invention of the typewriter in the 1880s more women began to enter the field and during the upcoming years, especially since World War I, the role of secretary has been primarily associated with women. By the 1930s, fewer men were entering the field of secretaries.

Secretary at typewriter 1912 Wikipedia

Laura Ashley (1925-85) began her career as a secretary with the Women’s Institute.

Irving Berlin never learned to read music or to write it. He hummed or sung his songs to a secretary, who took them down in musical notation.

Joseph Stalin had an office in the Kremlin where his faithful secretary, Poskrebyshev kept the days paperwork ready for the Russian leader.

The invention of typing correction fluid is credited to Bette Nesmith, the mother of former Monkee Mike Nesmith. In the 1950s, Mrs. Nesmith was a typist. One day, she brought with her to work a small brush and a bottle of white paint which she used to correct her typos. She shared her "Mistake Out" with other secretaries, and was soon approached by an office supply company to market her invention. She later renamed the product Liquid Paper, and in 1979, sold the rights to the Gillette Company for $47.5 million.

In 1952, Mary Barrett, president of the National Secretaries Association, C. King Woodbridge, president of Dictaphone Corporation, and American businessman Harry F. Klemfuss created a special Secretary's Day holiday, to recognize the hard work of the staff in the office. The holiday caught on, and is now celebrated during the fourth week of April in offices all over the world. The day has been renamed "Administrative Professional's Week" to represent the more challenging roles of secretaries today.


In 1957, at the age of 68, T.S.Eliot married Esmé Valerie Fletcher, who was 30. She had been his secretary at Faber and Faber since August 1949.

Four-letter words used by angry footballers set a problem for the British post office in the mid 1960s. Reports on bad language offences had to go by post to the FA Disciplinary Committee. To avoid embarrassing FA secretaries, the envelopes were marked ‘Not to be opened by females’.

Martin Luther King confessed in a 1965 sermon of his secretary having to remind him of his wife's birthday and the couple's wedding anniversary.

The first laptop was made in 1982. It was priced at around $20,000 in today's money and weighed 11 pounds, but it was the keyboard that led to its failure: typing was associated with the secretarial pool – no self-respecting businessman would be seen dead typing on a keyboard.


After graduating from Exeter in 1986, JK Rowling moved to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International. She was dismissed from her job as a secretary for daydreaming too much.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Secret Service

The agentes in rebus were the late Roman imperial courier service and general agents of the central government from the 4th to the 7th centuries. Two were appointed to each province in 357, one in 395 and more again after 412.

In modern times, the French police officer Joseph Fouché is sometimes regarded as the primary pioneer within secret intelligence. Among other things, he is alleged to have prevented several murder attempts on Napoleon, through a large and tight net of various informers.

By the end of the American Civil War, between one-third and one-half of all U.S. paper currency in circulation was counterfeit. This served as the catalyst behind the formation of the U.S. Secret Service. On July 5, 1865, the Secret Service was created under the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C

Badge of the United States Secret Service

The legislation creating the agency was on Abraham Lincoln's desk on April 14, 1865, the same day he was assassinated.

The secret service did not start protecting the President until after President William McKinley was shot and killed in 1901.The following year, President Theodore Roosevelt became the first President to be protected by Secret Service agents. Since then, every president has received Secret Service Protection.

In 1902, William Craig became the first Secret Service agent to die while serving, in a road accident while riding in the presidential carriage.

Eleanor Roosevelt regularly refused Secret Service protection, and instead traveled with a .22 Smith and Wesson on her person.

James Brady, the Secret Service agent that saved President Reagan's life became a Secret Service agent after seeing a movie starring Ronald Reagan as a Secret Service Agent.

Secret Service agents respond to the assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan

In 1565 Ivan the Terrible set up the Oprichnik, who were the forerunner of the KGB. Riding black horses and led by Ivan himself, the private army terrorized the populace. After seven years of abuse Ivan disbanded them.

The KGB was the main Soviet security agency, intelligence agency or spy agency, and the secret police agency during the Cold War. It was formed on March 13, 1954 as a successor of earlier agencies, the Cheka, NKGB, and MGB.

KGB is an initialism for Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, which translated in English as Committee for State Security,

During the Cold War it was Soviet policy for the KGB to monitor public and private opinion, internal subversion and possible counter-revolutionary plots in the Soviet Bloc. The KGB was instrumental in crushing the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and the Prague Spring of "Socialism with a Human Face", in 1968 Czechoslovakia.

Vladimir Putin was a KGB Foreign Intelligence Officer for 16 years. He gave up his position in the KGB in 1991, during the putsch against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Putin in KGB uniform, circa 1980

After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the KGB was split into the Federal Security Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation.

Belarus is the only post-Soviet Union era country where the national security organization is still called "KGB", albeit it is lost in translation when written in Belarusian (becoming KDB rather than KGB).

The British Secret Service (James Bond's employer) really can issue a "license to kill". It's called a Class Seven authorization, and must be approved by the MI6 agent's superiors all the way up to the Foreign Minister.

Because the American Secret Service aren't allowed into the Oval Office, they turned the floor into a giant, digital scale so that they can monitor where the President is at all times.

All presidents and first ladies have secret service protection for life, and further that any children of former presidents get secret service protection until they turn 16.