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26th-Aug-2008 02:29 pm - LBJ defeats?
Everyone knows Lyndon Johnson had a stellar record at getting things through Congress in 1964, 1965, and 1966.  Were any of his significant proposals introduced and voted down?

I know there were some compromises, but I'm looking for plain defeats.
29th-Jun-2008 05:40 am - Stiff upper lip
I have two episodes from the Falklands war to mention. First then the British destroyer HMS Sheffield was hit and sunk by one anti-ship missile, the crew had a different and pleasant way of tackle the tragedy. From wikipedia: “After the ship was struck, her crew, waiting to be rescued, sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from Monty Python's Life of Brian”. Imagine standing on the deck on a sinking, possible burning ship, would you start singing Always look on the bright side of life?

Then we have The Sun’s less tasteful news bill after the sinking of Argentina cruiser Belgrano and killing over 300 men: Gotcha. That’s the second time since the second world war a submarine have strike a ship, (Bush, Clinton and Bush have ordered submarines to lobbing cruise missiles, but not to attack other ships). I have also read (The Guinness Encyclopaedia of Signs and Symbols – not the best source) that the submarine in question flagged the Jolly Roger, then returning to Scotland, also bizarre.
10th-Jun-2008 11:51 am - Jeremy Bentham's Auto-icon
From Wikipedia's article on Jeremy Bentham:

"As requested in his will, his body was preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet, termed his "Auto-icon". Originally kept by his disciple Dr. Southwood Smith, it was acquired by University College London in 1850. The Auto-icon is kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the College. For the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, the Auto-icon was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where he was listed as "present but not voting". Tradition holds that if the council's vote on any motion is tied, the auto-icon always breaks the tie by voting in favour of the motion.

The Auto-icon has always had a wax head, as Bentham's head was badly damaged in the preservation process. The real head was displayed in the same case for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks including being stolen on more than one occasion. It is now locked away securely."

Click for picture.

Reputable citation here.
20th-May-2008 12:29 pm - Mary the Elephant
omg monocle
On September 11, 1916 an inexperienced hotel worker named Red Eldridge was hired as an assistant elephant trainer by the Sparks World Famous Shows circus. The following night, he was killed by Mary - a five ton Asian elephant - while taking her to a pond to splash and drink. No one knows what exactly happened, but its widely accepted that he prodded Mary behind her ear with a hook after she reached down to nibble on a watermelon rind. She went into a rage, snatched Eldridge with her trunk and threw him against a stand and stepped on his head, crushing it.

The details of the aftermath are confused in a maze of sensationalist newspaper stories and folklore. Most accounts indicate that she calmed down afterward and didn't charge the onlookers, who began chanting, "Kill the elephant!" Apparently within minutes, a local blacksmith tried to kill Mary, firing more than two dozen rounds with little effect... Meanwhile, the leaders of several nearby towns threatened not to allow the circus to visit if Mary was included. The circus owner, Charlie Sparks, reluctantly decided that the only way to quickly resolve the potentially ruinous situation was to kill the elephant in public. On the following day, a foggy and rainy September 13, 1916, she was transported by rail to Erwin, Tennessee where a crowd of over 2,500 people (including most of the town's children) assembled in the Clinchfield railroad yard.

The elephant was hanged by the neck from a railcar-mounted industrial crane. The first attempt resulted in a snapped chain, causing Mary to fall and break her hip as dozens of children fled in terror. The severely wounded elephant died during a second attempt and was buried beside the tracks. Although the authenticity of a widely distributed (and heavily retouched) photo of her death was disputed years later by Argosy magazine, other photographs taken during the incident confirm its provenance. Mary is the only known elephant in history to be hanged.

6th-Mar-2008 02:25 pm - Upper Macedonia
FYROM’s efforts to usurp the historical legacy of the ancient Macedonians may have irked Greeks, but the main issue at hand is the geopolitical one. The modern-day region of Macedonia is multiethnic. It is not the homeland of just one nation and the ethnic groups that reside within it have the right to use the term Macedonia in an ethno-geographical sense (Greek Macedonians, Slav Macedonians, Bulgaro-Macedonians, and so on).

But Skopje is presenting Macedonia as the homeland of a non-existent “Macedonian nation” and, by extension, “Aegean Macedonia” as being under Greek occupation. The name is their only way to legitimize what they purport to be a “partitioned Macedonian nation.”

The issue at hand, therefore, is not to settle for any composite name but to impose a composite name that reflects reality. A name such as Slavo-Macedonia would be wrong because of the Albanian minority in the country, whereas a geographically descriptive name such as Upper Macedonia, is more acceptable.

North Macedonia is not necessarily wrong, but it has the problem of being associated with divided nations such as Korea and Vietnam. Then there’s New Macedonia, a proposal intended to distinguish FYROM from ancient Macedonia. But “New” connotes a tie with rather than a contradistinction with ancient Macedonia.

The opposition (except for the LAOS party) sees Upper Macedonia as a solid basis for negotiations. So far, the Karamanlis government has made the right moves and the results are already visible on an international level. If Skopje sees that Athens will not waver from its course, it will be obliged to choose between the fantasy of a “greater Macedonia” on the one hand, and the very tangible benefits of NATO membership soon and EU membership in the future.

2nd-Mar-2008 05:19 pm - Origin of the word "Serendipity"
hard at work
Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely. The word derives from an old Persian fairy tale and was coined by Horace Walpole on 28 January 1754 in a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann (not the same man as the famed American educator), an Englishman then living in Florence. The letter read,

"It was once when I read a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip (Serendip = Sri Lanka): as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right—now do you understand serendipity? One of the most remarkable instances of this accidental sagacity (for you must observe that no discovery of a thing you are looking for, comes under this description) was of my Lord Shaftsbury, who happening to dine at Lord Chancellor Clarendon's, found out the marriage of the Duke of York and Mrs. Hyde, by the respect with which her mother treated her at table."

The fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip is based upon the life of Persian King Bahram V, who ruled the Sassanid Empire (420–440). Stories of his rule are told in epic poetry of the region (Firdausi's Shahnameh of 1010, Nizami's Haft Paykar of 1197, Khusrau's Hasht Bihisht of 1302), parts of which are based upon historical facts with embellishments derived from folklore going back hundreds of years to oral traditions in India and The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. With the exception of the well-known camel story, English translations are very hard to come by.
1st-Mar-2008 02:08 pm - Ibn Battutah
Born in 1304 in Tangier, Morocco, Ibn Battutah, travelled to 44 countries in 29 years, married 23 times and had seventy children. He traveled three times the distance of Marco Polo. He explored Mali and the city of Timbuktu before European explorers reached it (which was in the 18th century). He visited Al-Andalus, north Africa, the Arabian peninsula, central Asia, India, China, and southeast Asia, and he recorded that that greatest sight in his travels was the city of Cairo.
18th-Jan-2008 01:54 pm - Petrarch and Boccaccio
My pic
Two Florentine men who spent their youth in France are widely regarded as "Fathers of the Renaissance".  Francesco Petrarch was a scholar and poet who loved the "lost civilizations" of Greece and Rome. He studied Latin copies of the classics and spent much of his life trying to revive interest in Greek and Roman culture.  Though he wrote some works in Italian and some in Latin, Petrarch  could not read Greek , so many classic texts were unavailable to him. 

His friend, a writer named Giovanni Boccaccio visited Byzantium and found a man named Pilato who could read Greek.  Boccaccio asked Pilato to translate the Illiad from Greek into Latin.  Returning to Florence in 1361 Boccaccio and Pilato called on Petrarch and presented him with the manuscript of Homer's epic poem.  Petrarch was so moved and so grateful that he actually knelt down in front of his visitors to accept their gift. 
13th-Jan-2008 08:12 pm - Washington Irving
is this a kissing book?
American author Washington Irving (b. 1783), who is best known for his stories such as "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle" also wrote "Life of Mahomet" the first sympathetic biography of the Prophet Muhammad to ever appear in the United States.

Further reading: http://www.thedailystar.net/forum/2007/may/washington.htm

Limited preview of "Life of Mahomet" on Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=T3_Lz30vggEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=life+of+mahomet,+irving&sig=exZZPw2uSyIAxzClLOrj9Wki6N4
8th-Dec-2007 09:37 am - Worst name ever
Afters some thought I try to make a post in here. I have always fund it funny that America named their rocket artillery in the second world war, “Calliope”. Here is the wikipedia article to prove it. That’s strange because Calliope was one of Zeus daughters and the most significant muse. How did they thought?
– We have a new weapon that will bring death and destruction to the Nazi army. What should we name it?
- We can call it Calliope, she was the muse of epic poetry, epic poetry is kind of as death and destruction. 
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