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Recent Posts:
September 2005


Battle of Britain

Fertility Treatment

The Plumber's Tale of Woe

Learning to Read and Write

Bureaucracy Gone Mad

What is Really Happening in New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina

The Tooth Fairy Forgot to Come!!!

August 2005

More Surgery!"

How I Met Michael Rennie (1909-1971)

"The Sixth Lamentation" - An Excellent Book

French Onions

Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)

I'm Recovering Well

Well, I'm Glad That's Over!

Just Me Prattling

The Russian Mini-Submarine

Amazing Animals: The Sturgeon

The Tower Subway

Surgical Pre-Assessment

July 2005

The Coal Delivery

Spyware and Anti-spyware"

Getting Enough Sleep?

An Insidious Cancer

Americans First on the Moon

"The Lion King"

Update on my Biopsy

Have I had my Head Buried in the Sand?


Animal Intelligence

Fl./Lt. Dennis G. Hornsey, D.F.C.

The English Language

London Bombs

Marriage Advice?

My Biopsy

A Message for the World's Leaders

June 2005


A 'Perfect' Day

Amazing Animals: The Emperor Penguin

Crowned on this Day in 1509

A Sweet for a Special Occasion

King Solomon's Mines

Father's Day

Tiger, Tiger....


Cockroaches and Human Fertility

World's Best Character Actor

Computer Decisions

Food for Thought


World Ocean Day

Daft as a Brush (or Two)

Douglas Jennings, RAF Evader During WW II

Lord of the Rings

Driving Me Mad

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Wednesday, 13 July 2005
Topic: Terrorism
We now know who some of the suicide bombers were. Young men who should have had a long life before them - sons, brothers and one also a husband and a father. We cannot begin to imagine what convinces a seemingly normal young man to blow himself up and, in so doing, also destroy those unfortunate enough to be around him regardless of their race or their religion. What hatred had they absorbed and from whom? There must be some 'master-mind' behind all this, some evil coward who would never forfeit his own life but who is so misdirected and consumed by evil that he will twist the minds of impressionable young men and brainwash them into such a pointless waste of life.

And what else have these young men done? They have destroyed their families for sure. My heart goes out to the anguished mother who reported her son missing. To learn that your child is dead is a terrible shock in itself but to learn that your child was actually one of the perpetrators of such evil destruction must be an unbearable sorrow and an everlasting shame. These young men were not martyrs because their cause was twisted and evil but in a sense they were victims too. Their families most certainly are.

We cannot condone their crime against the British people but we can and should show compassion to the families they left behind.

Posted by Noviomagus at 18:06 BST Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Tuesday, 12 July 2005
Animal Intelligence
Now Playing: Talk to the Animals
Topic: Nature and Our World
I've always believed that animals are far more intelligent than people give them credit for, especially the mammals and the birds. Well, how could animals have survived for many hundreds of thousands of years before the dawn of man if they weren't clever and resourceful? But do they actually think and plan, are they aware of self and can they communicate with each other? Many trained animals seem to exhibit signs of intelligence comparable with a three or four year old child! So, for instance, how long does it take a child to realise that the image in a mirror is their own reflection? Well, about two years apparently. So it is not surprising that some animals, such as dolphins, definitely recognise themselves in a mirror and that dogs and wolves have a very strong sense of family.

Do animals think and plan? Well, this story I read once about a horse indicates that they can. The horse belonged to a farmer who kept him in a field about ½ mile away from the farmhouse. One night, the farmer was woken up by the horse neighing outside his bedroom. It was pouring with rain so an annoyed farmer had to put on wellies and a raincoat over his pyjamas and lead the horse back down the lane. When they arrived at the field, the farmer heard a strangled "MOO". The cow in the field next door had caught her horns in the fence and, in her struggles to get free, had fallen upside down - she would not have lasted the night. So, did the horse know he had to get help and that he had to jump out of the field and run up to the farmhouse? I think he did!

We talk of 'bird-brained' as a derogatory adjective but just because birds have a different type of brain doesn't mean it is inferior to that of mammals. My late sister, Pauline, once owned a pet Brazilian Hangnest. He was very tame and I can remember laughing when I showed him a mirror and he started to display to his image. I also showed him a book with a picture of a Hangnest. But he was a wise little bird and he craned his little head and looked behind the book. He may not have been aware of self but, he had realised very quickly that it was not another bird and from then on he stopped displaying.

Without doubt, one of the most intelligent birds is the parrot. And now a scientist undertaking research with an African Grey Parrot called Alex, has shown that he understands the abstract concept of zero and correctly used the word 'none' to describe an absence of objects. Alex can count, understands colours and shapes and has a large vocabulary. He can also get bored and irritated and refuse to answer, "No!", "Want corn!", just like a small petulant child. Another grey parrot called, N'kisi can use and apparently understand over 700 words and has an affinity for telepathy!

Teaching animals to mimic the human way of communication does not necessarily mean they have language skills in the wild although I believe many do. Take the Gorilla, Koko, who has learnt sign language. She has told her keepers she wants a baby! I remember seeing a TV programme about her a long time ago. It was sad because she was shown lots of pictures of male gorillas in zoos and she picked the one she fancied! However, when he arrived, he did not show any interest in poor old Koko! So, she mothers tiny kittens instead. Then there is the chimpanzee, Washoe and her friends. Washoe was taught signing and soon began to combine the signs into meaningful phrases, "You me hide", "You me go out hurry". When other chimpanzees were included in the study, they starting signing amongst themselves, even when on their own, and they taught signing to another chimp and adapted the signs for their own use. They were definitely talking to each other.

Scientists are just beginning to understand animal communication and I remember yet another TV documentary about Prairie Dogs. (You will know by now that I enjoy watching nature programmes on telly!) The scientist studying these little creatures tapes their squeaks and grunts, which sound all the same to our ears. He then analyses the sounds on his computer and creates a sonogram, or visual representation of the sound waves. It seems that the prairie dogs have a rudimentary language as he discovered that the little creatures had 'words' for various predators and for other animals such as deer or cows. They also had words for 'tall man' and 'short man' and they even added a sound to tall man to indicate he was wearing a red t-shirt. Amazing!

Perhaps, one day there will be a real Dr Dolittle who really can talk to the animals.

Posted by Noviomagus at 17:53 BST Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink

Sunday, 10 July 2005
Fl./Lt. Dennis G. Hornsey, D.F.C.
Topic: Poetry and Poets
The late Dennis Hornsey was a World War II pilot serving with No. 76 Squadron flying a Handley Page Halifax Bomber. The crew named their aeroplane Excelsior and had a clenched fist with one finger pointing upwards painted on her side. On the night of 3rd/4th of November 1943, the aeroplane failed to return from an operational flight to bomb Dusseldorf. It had been shot down by a night fighter and crashed at Opgrimbie in Belgium. All seven crew bailed out but six of them were eventually captured and sent to prisoner of war camps. Dennis Hornsey was the only one to successfully evade through Belgium, France, over the Pyrenees and into Spain helped and guided by numerous brave members of the Underground Organisations. He returned to London from Gibraltar on the 11th December 1943.

After the war ended, Dennis Hornsey published his story, and recounted what happened to each of his crew, in a little book called: "The Pilot Walked Home". It is now out of print and very difficult to obtain so I was extremely lucky to find a copy. It is dedicated to the Underground Organisations of Belgium, France and Spain, and those of the R.A.F. who never came back. I was very touched by this poem included at the end of Chapter One of his book. I felt it was appropriate for this special day commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the end of the war.
      What Think You, Airman?
          by Dennis Hornsey

What think you, airman, when you fly,
So proudly there in heaven's sky?
Do you exult in your great might,
As you go onward through the night?
I think of death beneath my wings,
And of the dire load my bomber brings;
My spirit flinches from the thought
That of this carnage may come naught.
I pray that soon the day will come
When man will offer man his hand,
And peace prevail throughout the land.
I face up to my moment's task
And three things alone of God I ask—
Please help my flesh to stand the strain;
Protect us, Lord, this once again;
And if this cannot be your plan,
Give me the strength to be a man.

Extract from The Pilot Walked Home by Dennis Hornsey. Paperback published by Collins (White Circle) Clear-Type Press: London and Glasgow 1946
I do not know if Dennis Hornsey's widow is still living but if any members of his family read this, I hope they will forgive me for publishing his poem here.

Posted by Noviomagus at 12:28 BST Post Comment | View Comments (14) | Permalink

Saturday, 9 July 2005
The English Language
Topic: Miscellanea
The Reverend Frederic Wagstaff wrote an article in The Boy's Own Paper for Saturday, June 24th, 1882, entitled, "Some Oddities of Speech". In it, he mentions the difficulties arising out of the varying pronunciation of words ending in ough. He gives an example of the world plough which we call plow; but explains that we mustn't say we have a bad cow when we mean cough. Similarly, we mustn't say that bread is made of doff when we mean dough; nor that ground is row when we mean rough. All this reminded me of a poem on spelling which I copied from a book in the Library at Chichester College of Arts, Science and Technology when I did a secretarial training opportunities (TOPS) course about 28 years ago. (It was a great course, not only did I benefit from re-training, I got paid for doing it as well!).

In case you have not come across the poem before, here is the version I copied.

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, lough, and through?
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps
To learn of less familiar traps?

Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sound like bird,
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead -
For goodness sake don't call it "deed"!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).

A moth is not a moth in mother
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there's dose and rose and lose -
Just look them up - and goose and choose.

And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart -
Come, come, I've hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive,
I'd mastered it when I was five.
I remember being very mean and promising my children, then aged ten and eleven years old, £5 if they could read that poem perfectly. Of course, they couldn't!

The Reverend Wagstaff also mentioned the difficulties of forming plural terminations and gave us this 'aid to memory' by an unknown writer.
Remember though box in the plural makes boxes,
The plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.
And remember, though fleece in the plural is fleeces,
That the plural of goose isn't gooses nor geeses.
And remember, though house in the plural is houses,
The plural of mouse should be mice, not mouses.
Mouse, it is true, in the plural is mice,
But the plural of house should be houses, not hice
And foot, it is true, in the plural is feet,
But the plural of root should be roots, and not reet.
Yes, English is an odd, eccentric language - but I like it!

Posted by Noviomagus at 18:06 BST Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Friday, 8 July 2005
London Bombs
Topic: Terrorism
Black Ribbon in memory of the innocent victims of terrorism.  7 July 2005, LondonThursday, 7th July 2005. Four blasts in London, at least 38 dead, over 300 casualties, some critical and doubtless, the death toll will rise. Countless people traumatised. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people affected by this atrocity; particularly those who have lost loved ones. This was a cowardly, inhuman act of barbarism apparently perpetrated by terrorists calling themselves the Secret Organisation Group of al Qaida of Jihad Organisation in Europe.

Also on Thursday, al Qaida terrorists in Iraq have executed the Egyptian Envoy, Ihab al-Sherif. That incarnation of evil, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is responsible. Al Qaida have issued a statement in which they say they are standing up to all traitors and crusaders and that Iraq is not safe for infidels because "God has empowered the mujahideen". Are they talking of the ONE God, who is also our Christian God? Or have they got him mixed up with his impostor, Beelzebub/Satan/the Devil? After all, the Egyptian Envoy was an Arab, too.

My reply to all the terrorists is this. Our one, true God has empowered US against evil. We will not be cowered. We will not be divided.

John 8:44 "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he stood not in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof."

Posted by Noviomagus at 02:31 BST Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Wednesday, 6 July 2005
Marriage Advice?
Topic: Humorous
Someone once sent me a copy of this letter to 'Technical Support'. Thought you might enjoy it too!

Dear Tech Support,

Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and noticed a slow down in the overall performance, particularly in the flower and jewellery applications that had operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.

In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5, but installed undesirable programs. And now Conversation 8.0 no longer runs and House Cleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system.

I've tried running Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but to no avail.

What can I do?

Here is the reply from 'Technical Support'...

Dear Desperate,

First keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an entertainment package, while Husband 1.0 is an operation system. Try entering the command C:\I_THOUGHT_YOU_LOVED_ME.EXE and download Tears 6.2 to install Guilt 3.0.

If all works as designed, Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewellery 2.0 and Flowers 3.5. But remember, overuse can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Grumpy Silence 2.5, Happy Hour 7.0 or Beer 6.1. Beer 6.1 is a very bad program that will create Snoringloudly.wav files.

Whatever you do, DO NOT install Mother-in-law 1.0 or reinstall another Boyfriend program. These are not supported applications and will crash Husband 1.0.

In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have a limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly. You might consider additional software to improve memory and performance.

Good Luck,
Technical Support

Of course, that program only applies to young and inexperienced husbands. The enhanced program for older experienced husbands is running beautifully and does not need any further maintenance!

Posted by Noviomagus at 18:15 BST Post Comment | Permalink

My Biopsy
Topic: Health Issues
Microcalcification - that's what I was told I had when I was recalled for further mammograms nearly three weeks ago. The likelihood is that the condition is completely harmless but, and a big BUT, it could indicate a pre-cancerous condition. So, off I went early this morning (technically, yesterday morning as I see it is now past midnight) for my appointment at Worthing Hospital for a biopsy "under mammographic control". I can manage not to worry about something beforehand until the last minute - so, I didn't lose any sleep brooding about it. However, I did start worrying last night about getting up extra early (for me, that is) and arriving on time for my 9:15 appointment! I'm definitely a night owl and I've been getting worse recently and staying up until 2 or 2.30 as you will see from the time stamp on some of my posts!

The real anxiety kicked in this morning as I started having qualms about the whole thing. After all, it can't be very pleasant having hollow needles stuck into you removing bits of your flesh! To make matters worse, I had a bad weekend. Hubby wasn't at all himself and complained of feeling weak and dizzy and I felt a bit feverish too - a bug of some sort, I suppose. Then, Saturday evening, I got a very bad spasm in my back, more than once! Something to do with an injury I did to myself last year when I popped a vertebral tendon. Sunday, I had to resort to Ibuprofen, which definitely helped. No more cramps but it is still tender and I move with care!

Well, I was probably right to worry about arriving at the hospital on time! The traffic to Worthing was full of commuters on their way to work, with the inevitable delays leading up to the Arundel roundabouts and into Worthing itself. So, after finally succeeding in finding a parking place in the crowded hospital car park, I was already three minutes late. Oh dear! They had told me not to worry if I was a bit late but I puffed into the Breast Care Centre full of apologies. "Don't worry. I tell them you're here".   Just had time to visit the loo before I was called in.

The Radiologist and her assistant were charming and took a lot of trouble to put me at ease. I was invited to sit down on a very comfortable padded chair with wheels, which they pushed up to the x-ray equipment and then raised to the correct height. The thought crossed my mind that the chair was a precaution in case of a fainting episode - at least I wouldn't crash to the floor! A couple of x-rays later, just to make sure I was in the correct position, they prepared me for the local anaesthetic. "It will give you a slight burning sensation", she warned. I got two jabs in quick succession - then a wait for the anaesthetic to take effect. "Now we're ready to start", she said. "The biopsy needle will make a click and I will have to take two or three". About four clicks later, the senior Radiographer disappeared into a side room with the samples. "She has to check them under the microscope to make sure she has a sample of the microcalcification", explained her helper. Well, she didn't so more samples were needed. I think I counted ten clicks in all, each one giving a burning sensation. I was very relieved when she announced. "We are all done". The whole process had taken about half an hour.

I adjourned to the Hospital Canteen for a coffee and something to eat. Well, I had skipped breakfast and was beginning to feel in need of something. I saw one of the biggest Danish Pastries I have ever seen, at least five inches in diameter! Too big for one person, so I bought a small slice of fruit cake. I must say I was absolutely amazed at the price of my snack, at least half the cost of the same thing down the town.

Yes, it is a bit sore, still that burning sensation, but not too bad. I have got to keep the dressing on overnight and then I can replace it with one of those round 'spot' plasters. I must NOT get it wet until it has formed a scab. Now all I have to do is wait ten more days until my appointment to see the Consultant and get my results.

Posted by Noviomagus at 00:24 BST Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Sunday, 3 July 2005
A Message for the World's Leaders
Topic: In the News
So, has Live 8 been a success? Well, certainly it has for all the pop artists as there is nothing more valuable than mountains of free publicity, but then perhaps I am a bit of a cynic! And, what about the millions who attended all the concerts worldwide? Did they go for the music, the 'historical event', or do they really care about Africa's poor? Would they have gone if all the tickets had cost £200 each for African Aid? I wonder...

Although many of the people involved in Live 8 are actively involved in fund-raising, the emphasis has been on justice and empowerment of the poor, for debt relief, aid and fair trade. The more voices shouting, the better. However, I personally believe that Gordon Brown has done just as much in his efforts to persuade other World Leaders to agree to consider negating the crippling debts which so many of the so-called third-world countries are burdened with. That goal would enable the people themselves to invest in their own businesses thereby building up their own national economies. Whilst rich countries are taking a huge junk of the poor countries capital growth this cannot happen. Also, offering the poor countries a pittance of aid in return does not solve the problem as, in many cases, this aid finds its way into the pockets of the corrupt administrators of those lands and those who need it.

"Make Poverty History" is not just about the continent of Africa, you know, it's about the poor all over the world. Neither is it just about donating aid, although that it essential for the victims of natural disasters and war. The initiative aims to raise awareness of Fair Trade and to change the rules of world trade to favour the poor and also to encourage businesses to invest in international development and development education.

Did you know that 2005 is the International Year of Microcredit? This initiative involves microfinance institutions changing the lives of people and revitalizing communities by providing small loans to enable them to grow thriving businesses. In other words, giving people a helping hand to start helping themselves. "Microfinance has proved its value, in many countries, as a weapon against poverty and hunger. It really can change peoples’ lives for the better -- especially the lives of those who need it most." Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General.

2005 is also part of the:-
Yesterday's march, where some 225,000 people turned up in Edinburgh to take part in the world's largest human white band, plus other initiatives planned during the week will, doubtless, also have an influential effect on the G8 Ministers arriving at Gleneagles on Wednesday. I hope so.

But, then, just as I begin to think that humanity is becoming more humane and generous, I came across an article in the e-edition of The Argus for 1st July 2005, which reported this disgraceful incident:
"Drunken racists hounded a black couple and their two young children from their new home on the day they moved in. The thugs hurled insults from the street outside the house in Brighton and shouted at the family to get out. The mother, terrified for her family's safety, dialled 999 and police were sent to the scene. A man and woman, in their 40s, were arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred and an injunction has been granted to protect the victims."
Utopia is a long way off.

Posted by Noviomagus at 18:00 BST Post Comment | Permalink

Thursday, 30 June 2005
Topic: Computer
I'm always looking up words in the dictionary to discover their true meaning or to find a related word which exactly fits what I want to say. I used to use the Thesaurus section of my Encarta English Dictionary all the time - until my DVD drive went kaput! So, I miss not having it to hand as it was quicker than thumbing through a large and heavy dictionary. Even though calling it up was, increasingly, the last straw for the memory capacity of my ancient laptop (and for its ancient owner!)

However, the normal dictionary cannot help when it comes to finding out what a mobile wallet or FeliCa chip is or what a serial communications interface really does. Yes, I know you can probably find the answers by asking Google but it's so much easier when everything is on the same site. That's why I was really pleased to discover an on-line IT-specific encyclopedia at

Perhaps I can begin to understand what all the 'jargon' really means as I look through the immense choice of new notebooks, desktops and all their peripherals. At the moment, I use a small desk in the sitting room - not ideal as it get surrounded by papers - and it is barely wide enough for my laptop, mouse mat and small notebook (and most new laptops are much wider than my current one). Also, when I want to use my scanner, it is in the way of the door into the kitchen!

Time to do something and we have been! Large wardrobe shoved round in third 'bedroom', Large chest of drawers removed. Single bed and bed frame moved from second bedroom into third - just fits! Phew! Still got to move two bookcases out of third bedroom, move things round in second bedroom, GET RID OF MOUNTAIN OF JUNK and, maybe, I can put a new computer desk upstairs. And, maybe, offspring can be persuaded to remove some of HIS junk which dear parents have been storing ever since he moved into his first digs when he left university, including an antique Commodore 64 and games!. Then, maybe, I can make use of the chest of drawers he never finished restoring and kept saying he would take away! MAYBE....

Posted by Noviomagus at 01:52 BST Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Tuesday, 28 June 2005
A 'Perfect' Day
Topic: Miscellanea
I have just discovered that the 28th June or June 28th, as is preferred on the other side of the Atlantic, is the only date with perfect numbers, 6 and 28. What is a perfect number? Well, it is an interger which is the sum of its proper positive divisors. [That sounds very erudite, but I copied it!]

Six is the first perfect number because it can be divided by 1, 2 and 3. Add them up and 1+2+3=6. Twenty-eight happens to be the next perfect number because it can be divided by 1, 2, 4, 7 and 14. Just as before, 1+2+4+7+14=28. After 6 and 28 comes a perfect 496, 8128, 33550336 and 8589869056. I wonder if anyone noticed on June 28th in the year 496? So the next extra special June 28th will be in the year 8128. Too bad I won't be here to celebrate it!

If you are interested in the mysteries of Egyptian Fractions, or you want to know how to drive your maths teacher nuts, visit Dr. Stuart Savory's Blog.

Posted by Noviomagus at 01:12 BST Post Comment | Permalink

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