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fun 5

article archives at abelard's news and comment zonetopic archives: fun
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III-2004: 03 08 08-2 22
New translation, the Magna Carta

fun 5

quickie divorce—malaysian style

“A row over a Malaysian court ruling that Muslim men can divorce their wives via SMS using their mobile phones has outraged women's groups and puzzled Malaysia's prime minister.”

“We hope of course that instead of sending messages, you should look at the beautiful wife that you're going to divorce [...] maybe she would cry a bit and you would change your mind,” the PM added.

Divorce and remarriage in Malaysia can be a simple matter. The tiga taluk, three times “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee” is legal. Some figures I have seen show a divorce rate of over 90% for some Malaysian states. But don’t worry too much, there is also a remarriage rate of over 90%!
I expect crying is a high art form in Malaysia.

And a lot better than all that government interference and lawyer crap.

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and now comes the moment of truth for armstrong

“And now he's trying to do what one man, Miguel Indurain of Spain, has ever done before -- win five consecutive Tours.

“It's a moment that will live for as long as people care about competition and achievement. Either Armstrong, working without his best stuff, does what only one man has done before, or Ullrich dethrones one of the greatest of all champions.

“Usually, you have to go to the movies to see such moments. Saturday, you can see it in real life.”

Recommended reading.

the web address for this article is


the great armstrong—legstrong would be better

Once more, Armstrong crushed rivals on the renowned Luz-Ardiden climb to move to a strong position in the Tour.

Armstrong is having one eventful Tour. If he can win this one, he will join four other Tour greats with five wins, and maybe he still has the strength to go beyond that.

Each day, the French commentators bite their nails and eat their hearts out, desparately seeking weaknesses in the prodigious American who has stolen ‘their’ Tour for the last four years. Their voices rise in pitch as they exaggerate every two-yard gap and minimise Armstrong’s dominance; as every day, he yet again pulls on the yellow jersey, to their obvious disappointment and seemingly interminable chagrin. Will this American never break and go back to that distant land across the ocean?

For two heavy days, Armstrong has been stalking the strong German, Ullrich, now his only major remaining rival, while knowing that Ullrich has a tendency to crack under the pressure of the important climbs. Today was the point to strike and, once more, Armstrong was up to the task, tearing 40 priceless seconds from Ullrich, with an added 20-second bonus for winning the stage.

These two left Vinokourov, probably out of range for the time-trial next Saturday, to look forward to three more heavy days on the road. Saturday will be the day when Ullrich can hope to use his strength to snatch the Tour from Armstrong.

Ullrich is the stronger, but Armstrong is the outstanding climber.

Through Basqueland, the roads are lined with the bright orange of the newly competitive, Basque clockwork orange [naraja mecanica] team, Euskaltel-Euskadi.

As the riders started up the Luz, Armstrong, and the strong contender Mayo of Euskaltel, were brought down when Armstrong’s brake handle caught in a bag being waved by a young spectator (the fans crowd in on the riders as they climb), but Armstrong blamed himself for being too close!
Having climbed back aboard complete with battle-scarred arm, while Ullrich slowed to let him catch up (standard Tour chivalry), Armstrong’s gear caught (probably maladjusted by the fall) and he nearly went down again. But, from then forward, Armstrong went up the 10%-plus slope like a cat with its tail on fire, destroying all competition.

Tomorrow is a day of rest, which should help Ullrich to recover before the last seriously heavy climbs between Pau and Bayonne. Pau-Bayonne is where Armstrong would doubtless yearn to cut some more slack between himself and Ullrich. But there is a long run-in after the two class-one climbs, so it is near certain that Armstrong will have to rely on keeping the time gap between him and Ullrich down to less than a minute on Saturday’s time-trial. The gap is 1 minute 7 seconds and there is a dangerous 15-second bonus for first, an ambition well within Ullrich’s capacity.

One of the most eventful and closely fought Tours for years.

related material
latest reports from the Tour de France

[and the original pages, in French]

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related material

latest reports from the Tour de France

[and the original pages, in French]

the end of beloki, and armstrong goes cross-country

“The Texan, trying to win a fifth successive Tour, was forced to ride his bike into a field to avoid a horrific crash four kilometres from the finish of stage nine from Bourg d'Oisans to Gap. The faller, last year's runner-up Joseba Beloki, was in hospital last night with a broken right leg, elbow and wrist.”

Another report here, with a picture.

In a quiet day today, the leaders maintained their positions (as expected) as they headed into Marseilles. Tomorrow is a rest day, then a day of routine, next comes the individual time trial, and after that .... back into the mountains.

The real event of today’s stage was typically French. A sit-down demonstration in front of the main peleton [pack of riders] in protest of the jailing of José Bové, the destroyer of GM crops and a MacDonald’s outlet. The Tour may be the greatest sporting event in the world, but the everyday sport of France is strikes and street politics. Still they only stopped the Tour for 1 minute 10 seconds, honour was satisfied and the parade moves on.

the web address for this article is


The Flags of the World

A couple of examples, with larger versions available on-site

Flag of British Indian Ocean Territory - image credit: Flag of Swaziland - image credit:

Each flag has a link to stats for that country.

This page is part of a major statistics site.

[Lead from Limbic]

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fun reporting on the tour de france, from the ny times

“The trouble began when Delatour's leader, Patrice Halgand, launched an attack after Armstrong crashed on a descent in the Dauphiné Libéré race. Speeding away while the race leader is on the ground violates the unwritten rules of the sport, as an irate Armstrong later pointed out.

“Worse for Halgand, after several riders joined him and advised him to slow down in the name of chivalry, he launched another attack.

“Armstrong got back on a replacement bicycle and rejoined the pack, finally winning the weeklong race. Before the finale, he made it personal with Halgand, first denouncing him, then overtaking the Frenchman on another attack and leaving him in the dust.”

the web address for this article is


the greatest show on earth has started!

The Tour de France, the biggest, hardest cycle race, the biggest, hardest sporting event in the whole world starts today with an against-the-clock stage to the background of the Eiffel Tower and central Paris, this for the first time since 1963.

It is soooo beautiful— helmets bearing down like invaders from from—even aerodynamic shoes. Orange glasses, clicking gears ::::::::whooooshhhhh and he’s gone:::::: But wait, here comes another one::::::

How can you not be here? How can you not watch the Greatest Show on Earth as it rushes past a field of sunflowers or lavender, or struggles up the Pyrennes?

Follow the Tour on the internet (in English).

related material
trailer for the greatest show on earth

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related material
trailer for the greatest show on earth

putting more colour in your fireworks fun

“ "In the past, the colors were produced by igniting charcoal, starches and gums, while today these have been replaced by metal fuels, explains chemist John A. Conkling, Ph.D., of Chestertown, Md., former technical director of the American Pyrotechnics Association. "These metals produce hotter flames, which produce more photons of emitted light and a variety of more vivid colors," he said in a recent interview. For example, barium monochloride in a flame produces green; strontium monochloride produces red; and copper produces blue emission, according to Conkling.”

the web address for this article is


you’d have thought blessing would do the trick

“A gathering of 126 bishops and other Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders in the Norwegian city of Trondheim boiled flasks of holy water for 10 minutes to kill any bacteria before pouring it into the Nidaros River Wednesday.”

But was the water holified before, or after, it was boiled?

the web address for this article is


trailer for the greatest show on earth
[and the original pages, in French]

Some history:

“The original first stage, from Montgeron to Lyon, lasted an overwhelming 467 kilometers. Lyon is on the schedule again this year, as are the five other original cities, but it will not be reached until the seventh daily stage, 226.5 kilometers from Nevers.

“Instead of six stages, there will be 20. Instead of 2,428 kilometers, there will be 3,427. Instead of the 6,075 francs carried home by the first winner, Maurice Garin, there will be €335,000 ($385,000).”

the web address for this article is


the left care, but not about sums ... or facts

“When you keep seeing the same big, fat, awfully round number and only the unit of measurement varies, you can’t help feeling that, whether in metric or American or imperial, nobody at Care International has a clue about how much raw sewage is being pumped into Iraq’s water sources.”

the web address for this article is


hero of rome badly served by his bosses

Courtesy of the auroran sunset, here is a succinct version of the story of Horatius:

“he was a roman soldier who pretty much singlehandedly stopped rome being overrun while the incompetents got their act in gear.. done by standing a fighting at a bridgehead while two of his subordinates destroyed the bridge behind him - once done he ditched his weapons and swam back to across to rome.”

According to the poem by Thomas Babbington, Lord Macaulay ( part of his Lays of ancient Rome, 1842) the bridge was destroyed with

“hatchet, bar, and crow,
And smote upon the planks above,
And loosed the props below.”

The bridge was the Sublician Bridge, which connected Rome with the road westward. The invaders were Lars Porsena’s Etruscan army (from Tuscany).

However, regimental petty-mindedness and political expediency put paid to his deserved military award. ( Recorded by Colonel W C Hall, and printed in the British Army Journal January 1953.)

Rome, II Calends, April CCCLX
I. Recommend Caius Horatius, Captain of Foot, CMCMXIV, for the Senate Medal of Honor.

Vth Ind, JAG II, February CCCLXI
III. The Senate Medal of Honor cannot be awarded in peacetime (AB/CVIII-XXV, paragraph XII, C).

IV. Suggest consideration for Soldier's Medal

Soldier's medal is given for saving lives; suggest star of bronze as appropriate

IXth Ind, JAG II Calends, September CCCLXI
I. XVIII months have elapsed since event described in basic letter. Star of bronze cannot be awarded after XV months have elapsed.

II. Officer is eligible for Papyrus Scroll with Metal Pendant.

XI Ind, G-I III Calends, October CCCLXI
II. Our currently fine relations with Tuscany would suffer and current delicate negotiations might be jeopardized if publicity were given to Captain Horatius' actions at this time.

Rome II Calends, I April CCCLXII
TO: Captain Caius Caius Horatius

I. Your statements concerning the loss of your shield and sword in the Tiber River of III March CCCLX have been carefully considered.

II. It is admitted that you were briefly in action against certain unfriendly elements on that day. However, Sergeant Lartius and Corporal Herminius were in the same action and did not lose any government property.

III. The Finance Officer has been directed to reduce your next pay by II-I/IV talents (I-III/IV talents cost on each sword, officers; III/IV talent cost of one each shield, M-II).

IV. You are enjoined and admonished to pay strict attention to conservation of government funds and property. The budget must be balanced next year.

With further ‘historic’ documents giving insight into the bureaucracy of the Roman Empire.

the web address for this article is


saddam never existed

jackkincaid typed:

“'Anti-war campaigners' George Galloway, John Pilger and Robert Fisk are claiming today that the Bush and Blair junta's claims that 'Saddam Hussein' ever existed in Iraq are a 'total fabrication'.

“No 'Saddam Hussein' has been found in Iraq since the end of the war, they say, and there is no 'proof' that any 'Saddam Hussein' ever existed. All talk of 'Saddam Husseins' is an obvious lie, designed to cover the B&B junta's true aims in Iraq, namely to steal that country's reserves of sand.

“In answer to the estimated 99% of the Iraqi population who insist that 'Saddam Hussein' really does exist, but has been very well hidden, Galloway, Plger and Fisk answered 'Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? They're just a bunch of wogs'.

“Meanwhile, the search for illegal Saddams goes on...”

the web address for this article is


streisand, would-be environmentalist,

has just attempted to sue this site for $10 million dollars (some reports say $50 million) for posting ‘her’ part of the coast on this public web site. Five GoldenYak (tm) award

The site documents a fascinating project to map the whole Californian coast for erosion monitoring.

This page from the site has comments on privacy and technology.

“We have little sympathy for those who would feel that in order to enjoy the beauty of the coast that they must deny others access to it.”

In good old American style, the web site has provided an enlargement. You need vast patience, or a fast download, for this one!

But this page gives a smaller shot, and the layout of what I regard as an impressive bit of web use.

the web address for this article is


legalise cannibalism!

oh goody, i talk to the trees ....
and they do listen to me!

Take up your roots and walk—triffids at last. Now all we need is a comet.

[thanx to MrMoor]

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“i left england at the age of four when i found out i couldn’t be king”

Bob Hope is 100 years old today [29 May 2003].

Linked article gives several of Hope’s typical one-liners.

Steyn on Bob Hope
for a longer, more thoughtful review of his life thus far.

the web address for this article is


and then there was the vast oil spill that wasn’t
from Reuters:

"S.Korea tankers crash, spill 200,000 tonnes of oil",
please read in the headline and first paragraph—
spilling around 20 tonnes of oil—instead of 200,000 tonnes of oil
and in third paragraph—
An estimated 20 tonnes of fuel oil—instead of 200,000 tonnes of fuel oil.

Comes of checking why I was not hearing more of this ‘story’!

Meanwhile, the real spill caused by the Spanish government continues to harm Spanish and French coasts.

the web address for this article is


only 11% of americans can find iraq

“Baghdad Bob said today,
"We know that only 11 percent of the Americans could find Iraq on a map. Unfortunately, that 11 percent appears to have be made up entirely of US marines."

“A late-night comedian's joke.”

[Source : J&K Copeland]

the web address for this article is


what is an average number of legs?

Most people have a greater than ‘average’ number of legs. [thanx to hognoxious]

Think about it, it is true!

And the solution is.... [Highlight the box below to see the answer J]

Although most people have two legs, there are some who have less than two legs.

This makes the total number of legs less than twice the total number of leg-owners.

Thus the average (mean) number of legs owned is less than 2.

A little explanation follows.

It is often assumed that average = arithmetic mean.

However, there are various other ‘averages’ :

Arithmetic mean The mean is not always and necessarily an appropriate ‘average’. To obtain the mean, just add up the total number of legs and divide by the total number of leg-owners.

The median number of legs is “the number in the middle” when the leg-owners with different numbers of legs are lined up in order: those with 0 legs, then those with 1 leg, then those with 1 1/4,......then those with 2 legs, then those with more legs.

With leg-owners, the median will very probably be 2 legs.

If there is an even number of leg-owners, then the average for the two middle leg-owners is taken. (In this case, it is likely that will both have two legs, so again the median would be 2 legs.)


The mode of a set of numbers is the number that occurs most often. With human legs, I am told that this number is 2 legs.

In the case of legs, this is probably what the ‘average’ person means by the ‘average’.

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penis demands its rights

“I’m lonely”, the penis told our special reporter.
“I demand full penis rights”.
“It is most unfair that I have not been supplied with a companion vagina.”

Tonie Bliar is looking into the possibility of a new ‘law’. A government spokes-person said he would be meeting President Bush to discuss the problem.

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american power—six flat-tops under way

click for original, larger version

Original, larger image at link provided.


Image credit:

  (Lead from Limbic)

the web address for this article is


why did the chicken cross the road?

Martin Luther King’s answer:
“I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.”

the web address for this article is


yet another ancient legend may be coming to life

A ray of sunshine for a new dawn in the Middle East.

“Archaeologists in Iraq believe they may have found the lost tomb of King Gilgamesh - the subject of the oldest "book" in history.

“Gilgamesh was believed to be two-thirds god, one-third human The Epic Of Gilgamesh - written by a Middle Eastern scholar 2,500 years before the birth of Christ - commemorated the life of the ruler of the city of Uruk, from which Iraq gets its name.”

From the Enc. Brit:

“Gilgamesh, the best known of all ancient Mesopotamian heroes. Numerous tales in the Akkadian language have been told about Gilgamesh, and the whole collection has been described as an odyssey--the odyssey of a king who did not want to die.

“The fullest extant text of the Gilgamesh epic is on 12 incomplete Akkadian-language tablets found at Nineveh in the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (reigned 668-627 BC). The gaps that occur in the tablets have been partly filled by various fragments found elsewhere in Mesopotamia and Anatolia. In addition, five short poems in the Sumerian language are known from tablets that were written during the first half of the 2nd millennium BC; the poems have been entitled "Gilgamesh and Huwawa," "Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven," "Gilgamesh and Agga of Kish," "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Nether World," and "The Death of Gilgamesh." ”

a translation of the epic may be found here. This is currently unavailable, so here is another multi-page, pretty (if more irritating to download) version.

Here is a one-sheet, but unpretty, version.

the web address for this article is


how to improve your chance of sainthood—keep your nikkers on!

Saints go straight to ‘heaven’, they do not pass Go, or collect $200.
To be a saint, you have to perform at least two miracles.

The present pope has a thing about saints. He is running close to a mass production line. Included in his to-do list are several of his recent predecessors!

Tomorrow during his visit to Madrid, he adds five more to the record, and he has seven more are lined up for later in the year.

He has made about 500 saints altogether so far, and probably over 1,300 beatifications—probationary saints!

The current pope has sainted more than all his predecessors of the last 500 years!

This present trip is counted as the 99th package tour the pope has taken in 24 year : a veritable travel junkie compared with his recent predecessors, who tended to stay put in Rome.
John Paul 2 is the first non-Italian pope since 1523.
About 25% of Spaniards still attend church once a month.

This week’s lucky winners are :

  • Pedro Poveda Castroverde (1874-1936), priest, martyr, founder of the Teresian Association (Spain);
  • José María Rubio y Peralta (1864-1929), priest, of the Society of Jesus (Spain);
  • Genoveva Torres Morales (1870-1956), virgin, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Holy Angels (Spain);
  • Angela de la Cruz, nee María de los Angeles Guerrero González (1846-1932), virgin, foundress of the Sisters of the Company of the Cross (Spain);
  • María Maravillas de Jesus, nee Pidal y Chico de Guzmán (1891-1974), virgin, of the Order of Discalced Carmelites (Spain).

The Church claims 4,184 clergy were killed during the war by the government (Republican) side, which accused the Church of backing fascist Gen. Francisco Franco. Pedro Poveda [included above] was assassinated in 1936 during the opening days of the Spanish Civil War.

At least half a million died during the Spanish Civil War, in addition to those who died from malnutrition, starvation and war-engendered disease.

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7 of hearts gives up—attempting to collect a full set
Fun, but not for the targets.

“Gen. Zuhayr al Naqib, who headed military intelligence in President Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government, surrendered to U.S. forces in Baghdad on Wednesday, U.S. defense officials said."

And two more cards—6 of hearts and queen of diamonds.

What chance is there of a full house, or even a royal flush?

“A Pentagon official said U.S. forces now have 11 of the 55 in custody, with three others dead.”

Packs of Iraq’s ‘Most Wanted’ playing cards are for sale here (printed by the same company that made the original sets for the US forces in Iraq).

STOP PRESS: 8 of Spades has been taken.

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