Did you hear? Yesterday was World Beard Day! Yes, the first Saturday of September is the official day to celebrate great facial hair. This is timely for me, as I returned from my recent holiday sporting a beard that ties me to my Scottish roots (see picture to the right of my great, great grandfather William Michael, born in Ullapool, Scotland in 1828). Here are some unusual World Beard Day facts: * In southern Spain, many townships gather to witness a boxing match between a bearded man a beardless boy. The bearded man, normally armed with a sharp pike, is typically the victor. * In the Swedish village of Dönskborg, anyone without a beard is banished from the town and... Read more →

This year will be an interesting one ... in many ways. We have four unusual dates: 1. 1/1/11 2. 1/11/11 3. 11/1/11 4. 11/11/11 Then for something really different ... 1. Take the last two digits of the year you were born ... 2. Add that number to the age you will be this year ... 3. Together they add up to 111! So there you go ... I was born in 61 and turn 50 this year = 111 Read more →

They say the English language is a difficult one to learn and is arguably the largest language by the number of words. I've only ever spoken English - with a little Australian and American accent thrown in at different times. My wife speaks fluent German, her native tongue, as well as Afrikaans, after growing up in South Africa, and a little Zulu (no she doesn't use this on me). Many English names and phrases don't mean exactly what they first suggest. Here are a few examples I read about recently: 'Baby oil' is not made out of babies and its usefulness is not restricted to babies. The 'cold war' was not a war. 'Political science' is not a science. 'American... Read more →

The Oxford English Dictionary has become the word lover's Mount Everest ever since its initial publication eighty years ago. Weighing in a 62 kilograms, it is the dictionary to end all dictionaries. Ammon Shea has been reading dictionaries since he was ten years old. Recently, Ammon set aside an entire year to read the OED with the aim at "compiling the most obscure, hilarious, oddly useful, and exquisitely useless gems" he discovered along the way. One man, one year, 21,730 pages! You can read his story and all of his favorite words in his highly entertaining book Reading the OED. I bought this book a few weeks ago but my wife stole it and she has been devouring it ever... Read more →

Our world has experienced an incredible amount of progress in the last 100 years. Progress has been upward and onward, resulting in a rapid acceleration of change. Just think of: the speed of travel (our family took 23 days to travel to the USA via boat back in 1972!), the power of computers (the internet wasn’t available until the mid 1990s – now just over a decade later, over 1.4 billion people use it regularly!), technological advances, etc. Change is no longer ‘linear’; it is now ‘exponential’. To illustrate how rapidly exponential numbers accumulate, consider the following example ... If you fold a piece of paper in half forty-two times, how thick would it be? Thick enough to reach from... Read more →