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Last Updated: Friday, 28 January, 2005, 17:03 GMT
The Magazine Monitor


Welcome to The Magazine Monitor, the home for many ever-popular features, including your letters and :

  • MON: Si's riddle
  • TUES: Reading list
  • WEDS: Punorama
  • THURS: Caption comp
  • FRI: Friday Challenge
  • SAT: 10 things we didn't know this time last week


    10 THINGS
    10 melons by Bryce Cooke

    Snippets harvested from the week's news, chopped, sliced and diced for your weekend convenience.

    1. There are, reportedly, just 250 men in the UK who make donations to sperm banks. 1,110 women donate eggs.

    2. 4x4s (or SUVs to our US readers) are 25% more likely to have accidents than ordinary family cars, according to figures from Churchill Insurance.

    3. Former world champion boxer George Foreman has 10 children, five of whom are boys. They are all called George. There's George Jr., George III, George IV, George V, and George VI.

    4. Doctors in Devon are prescribing self-help books for some cases of mild depression.

    5. On average, every man, woman, and child in the UK drinks 36 litres of fruit juice a year.

    6. Baboons can tell the difference between English and French. Zoo keepers at Port Lympne wild animal park in Kent are having to learn French to communicate with the baboons which had been transferred from Paris zoo.

    7. Devout Orthodox Jews are three times as likely to jaywalk as other people, according to an Israeli survey reported in the New Scientist. The researchers say it's possibly because religious people have less fear of death.

    8. There were 3,731 breast enlargement operations in the UK in 2004, and 2,417 breast reductions.

    9. Meanwhile, 295 men had their ears pinned back.

    10.Jeremy Paxman once interviewed the world Cluedo champion, who arrived dressed as Colonel Mustard.

    If you spot anything that should be included next week, use the form below to tell us about it.

    Add your comments to this story using the form below:

    Your e-mail address
    Your thing and where you saw it

    The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.


    Watch those calories burn off
    Your mission should you choose to accept it:

    Fidgeting is good for you, according to the results of a fitness study in the US. People who fidget tend to be slimmer than those who sit still, and scientists behind the research believe the small amounts of physical exertion involved in fidgeting are responsible.

    Anything from playing a musical instrument, tidying up, even tapping one's feet, helped shed excess weight among volunteers who took part in the research. By contrast, over-weight people sat still, burning 350 fewer calories a day - the equivalent of a half-hour run.

    All of which is music to the ears of nervous, twitching, distracted folk, who, until now, have often been mocked for their idiosyncratic behaviour.

    So, if fidgeting is a legitimate exercise, all that's needed now is a proper workout regime to go along with it.

    Which is where you come in. Send us your ideas for a fidgeting fitness routine, the more mundane the better. And, if possible, send us a picture of you practising the fidget in question.

    Use the form below.

    Everyday, I would give my fingers a good workout, typing entries for the LBQ. What am I to do now?????
    Stephen Buxton, Coventry, UK

    Warm Up: 20mins of finger drumming. If fingers become out of sequence, the 20 mins must be restarted.
    Main Exercise: The office Chair Multi-Gym:
    Exercise 1: 50 Vertical Thrusts - Use the required lever to raise and lower the chair.
    Exercise 2: 50 Back Rocks - Release the chair back lock and push back on the chair as far as it will go then lean forward and Repeat.
    Exercise 3: 20mins Arm Rest Twists - Continually rotate Left and Right arm rests to determine how many positions you can find.
    Wind Down Exercise. 50 Nostril flares - This can be done at anytime (Particularly when told to 'Pack it in' by a colleague/Boss)
    Glenn J, UK

    and if you get really bored, you can swap hands!
    Andrew White, Southampton, UK

    Tapping out in Morse code S-O-S first with each foot then each finger both hands, repeat until meeting over.
    Candace, New Jersey, US

    My exercise program is as follows, and there is even less exercise required than your usual fidgeting program: beating around the bush, jumping to conclusions, swallowing my pride, pushing my luck, putting my foot in my mouth, making mountains out of mole hills, wading through paperwork, balancing the books and climbing the ladder of success.
    Josh D, Leicstershire, UK

    Read the Goverment's statements on house arrest plan.
    Twitch nervously.
    Hazel Johnson, UK

    Sit at desk, look out of the window, hum the pink panther theme while tapping your teeth with your pen.
    Ian, England

    The Paradiddle-ympics, for incessant finger-tappers and drummers?
    Brian Ritchie, Oxford, UK

    Pressing the delete button regularly during the working day.
    sue, England

    Scott McFarlane and daughter
    Although its hard to tell, this is myself and my daughter Megan wiggling our ears, which we reckon burns up about 2 calories a day.
    Scott McFarlane, UK

    To Josh D's very undemanding exercise routine, may I add my painless one - planting doubts, sweeping statements, tossing ideas, hitting the nail on the head, throwing my weight around, picking someone's brain and exercising restraint.
    Low Hian Cheng, Singapore

    Build up your forearm and index finger muscles by rapidly moving & clicking your mouse to change the screen from to whatever-you're-supposed-to-be-looking-at everytime your boss walks past.
    Jill Black, UK

    My officemate drums his fingers relentlessly. I get my exercise therefore involves grinding my teeth and throwing stuff at him.
    David Cope, UK

    MINIMISE, the boss is coming.
    MAXIMISE, he's gone again.
    MINIMISE, the boss is coming.
    MAXIMISE, he's gone again.
    MINIMISE, the boss is coming.
    MAXIMISE, he's gone again.
    MINIMISE, the boss is coming.
    MAXIMISE, he's gone again.
    repeat until 5pm.
    George , England

    Type every 2 minutes to see if your Friday Challenge answer has been shown.
    Richard Cooke, UK

    The spider: For thinner legs and arms, try this simple exercise. Move your office chair to a clear space and sit down in it. Now hold a lump of bluetack in each hand and begin kneading. Whilst continuing the kneading, swivel round slowly in you chair by taking quick dainty footsteps. If you are doing it correctly you should feel like a two legged spider turning around. Forget about doing any work and perform this exercise for the entire day. In two weeks your legs and arms will be as thin as spider webs.
    Morgan, Winchester, UK

    (Entries now closed.)


    In Blair defends house arrest plan, 27 January, there's the quote: "Earlier Mr Clarke told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was "unhealthy" to have so much power concentrated in the hands of a few people." For once, spot on...
    Stuart Moore
    Cambridge, UK

    Re: Shipman 'killed early in career', 28 January. If only.

    Re: the end of the Lunchtime Bonus Question. So are we to expect to see a load of LBQ Keyrings on sale on Ebay now?
    Stephen Buxton
    Coventry, UK

    Following recent letters to the Magazine Monitor, I now find myself at lunchtime counting people a) on mobile phones (with or without Crazy Frog ringtone), b) sniffing, c) wearing an iPod. When the weather improves enough to sit in the park, I'm sure this will be joined by d) reading the Da Vinci code. All this while humming 'Agadoo'. Great.
    Purby, Bramford, UK


    A regular note of anniversaries that might otherwise be overlooked.

    28 January is the 49th anniversary of Elvis's first TV appearance. He sang Heartbreak Hotel.


    It's time again for the caption competition.

    This week, Bono, Bill and Tony have a chat at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Your suggestions for what's being said, please.

    6. Cat, London, UK
    Bill: "If this is another question about error messages, I'm off."

    5. Claire
    Bono: "Look into my eyes. My eyes, not around my eyes. The eyes. You're under..."

    4. Nigel, Winchester, UK
    ...and another thing, that office assistant really needs changing...

    3. Stig, London, UK
    "My Mother typed Brian, but then your spell check took over and the rest is history..."

    2. John Noonan
    "No YOU should've gone to Specsavers."

    1. Steve, London
    "Sorry to butt in like this guys, but I still haven't found what I'm looking for."


    The article Hooked on Junk had one serious omission - that hoarding is often part of the mental disorder known as 'Obsessive Compulsive Disorder' from which over a million people in the UK suffer. People with OCD are literally terrified of throwing things away, often fearing harm will come to themselves or others if they do and are locked into a vicious cycle of being forced to hoard against their will. They do not enjoy or get any satisfaction from hoarding - they are made to do so from the obsessional thoughts the illness brings and the hoarding can reach horrendous proportions unless treated. Fortunately treatment is possible. For help or further information contact OCD Action 020 7226 4000.
    Colin Putney

    It's interesting to read about Charles Clarke's plans for not allowing terror suspects to leave their house, where their every action will be checked by the authorities, and where they will be denied methods of contacting the outside world such as telephones or computers. But he doesn't give us the phone number we should ring to make our choice on who should be evicted.
    Helen Dunn

    For Anthony Hunt (Monitor letters, Wednesday), the difference between smoking and holding an apple lies presumably in their respective potential to harm the user and others. A cigarette will almost certainly kill the smoker/motorist, while leaving other road-users unscathed, whereas an apple, innocently presented as a boon to the health of the consumer, may be used as a projectile against other drivers. Case closed.
    London, UK

    Re: Wednesday being the 18th anniversary of the cellphone sales warning (By the Way). Was this also the 18th anniversary of Philip Chillag's commuter journey (Monitor letters, Tuesday)?
    Matthew Harrison

    The story about Cannabis gran's book hope, 26 January, misses one very important question; did the police accept the tea and biscuits?

    I've just finished the Da Vinci Code. Would anyone like to know how it ends?
    Newbury, UK


    A regular note of anniversaries that might otherwise be overlooked.

    27 January is the 18th anniversary of the death of Jeane Dixon, Nancy Reagan's astrologer.


    To Edward Higgins and all other readers interested in testing their observation skills ( Monitor Letters, Tuesday, forget about the Da Vinci Code... See how long you can last without spotting a pair of iPod-white headphones. Incidentally, my record for Cheltenham town centre during a busy lunchtime is about 15 minutes.
    Michael Farley
    Cheltenham, UK

    Although it's hard to believe Phillip Chillags' story about mobile phones on trains, it is just possible. It is however, impossible, to take a tube journey any time between October and March without someone in the carriage constantly sniffing - having clearly forgot to bring a tissue or handkerchief with them.
    James Dawkins

    I'm quite the opposite of Edward Higgins. There are 8 of us sitting on our desk at work and 7 of us were reading the Da Vinci code. The eighth person borrowed the copy of the guy who finished it first .

    How can the police justify prosecuting a woman for holding an apple (presumably to eat) and not stop every driver who smokes? Explain the difference, I'd love to hear it.
    Anthony Hunt
    Maidstone, Kent

    Re Steve Atack and Peter Ellis's comments on nuances in the English language ( Monitor Letters, Monday)- my father years ago found himself watching Monty Python's dead parrot sketch on Dutch television. It was broadcast in English with Dutch subtitles which simply read "it is dead, it is dead, it is dead" over and over.
    London, UK

    In the past week, the Magazine Monitor has two new features and brought back a third. Can I recommend a new feature called 'The Featured Features Feature', where new or potential features are announced, to avoid surprise or confusion caused by a new section appearing out of the blue, and disappearing forever.
    S Murray
    Chester, UK


    A regular note of anniversaries that might otherwise be overlooked.

    26 January is the 18th anniversary of warnings that an increasing number of faults on British Telecom lines was leading to a rise in sales of "portable cellphones". The Times reported: "The Cellnet portable telephone costs 75 a week to hire with an additional call charge of 39p a minute inside London and 30p a minute elsewhere."


    It's time for Punorama, our pun-writing competition.

    The rules are straightforward - we choose a story which has been in the news, and invite you to create an original punning headline for it.

    This week, the news that herbal tea is taking off in English prisons. Following a successful trial at Wandsworth jail, and two other prisons, Downview, a women's prison, has become the latest to offer inmates the tea as means of calming them.

    It was an ex-steam-ly good crop. Hannah Joiner's Tea leaves in tea bag trial was the best of the "tea leaf" efforts. Adrian Buxton was the first, but not the last, with The Green Camo-mile (alternatively Natalie, England, suggested The Green Tea Mile).

    Camomile calms the guil-tea was Philip from Brussels' offering while Robin Hughes came up with At Her Majestea's Pleasure.

    Then there were the "cup" puns - namely Cups and Robbers, by Jonathan, Reading, UK, Nice cup of tea and a lockdown came from Mark Taylor, England, and Richard York submitted It's a fair cup, guv!

    More obscure was Tea quells she-cells sipping on the tea, sure, from Neil, Wales, More tea McVicar? by Steve, UK, and Con-Tea-key, by Keith, UK.

    Borage, by Helen, from France, was neat, but as is often the case, simplicity wins the day. So thanks to Pete Fowler, Mike Hatfield, Ben Parkin and several other for Doing Thyme.


    Good things to read on other websites.

    Anyone intrigued by the minor debate in the Monitor letters last week about "air quotes" and Victor Borge's phonetic punctuation should read these pages from Encyclocomedia about him. One of his lines: "My father invented the burglar alarm. Which unfortunately was stolen from him."

    Amusing thoughts on bicycles from the promising site The Beginners - Not For Beginners by BY Beginners, including: "Mr Dunlop invented the pneumatic tyre. This followed his first attempt, the poldmatic tyre."

    How big is your vocabulary? Would 100 million words be enough? Maybe not, says the Economist, but help could be at hand.

    Send us anything good to read you find on other sites using the form on the right. But even with 100m words at our disposal, there's no better way of saying that the BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.


    One feels for the young nurse who was fined 60 quid plus a ton in costs for taking a corner with an apple in her hand. (Driver fined for clutching apple, 24 January.) Not knowing present British standards, could you tell me if it would have been cheaper to throw the apple out of the car and be fined for littering?
    Norm Brown, Branxton

    Sorry, but your headline Howard unveils Tory asylum plans, 24 January, is just too tempting.
    Colin Edwards
    Exeter, UK

    Steve Atack suggests alternative idiomatic translations for the Inuit word "nalunaiqpaa". Surely the main point is that English *is* able to express the same nuances as Inuit, otherwise you wouldn't have been able to write the article in the first place. Just because English does not encapsulate the meaning in a single word, that does not mean it is incapable of expressing that meaning.
    Peter Ellis,

    In response to Edward Higgins who yesterday wrote that no-one on his train was reading the Da Vinci code (Monitor letters, Monday), I once spent an entire commuter journey without hearing a phone being answered with "Hello I'm on a train".
    Philip Chillag
    Wigan, UK

    Re: Beckham waxwork vandal discharged, 24 January. The Da Vinci Code part II. I can see the plot now: Jesus was not only married, but was reincarnated and fathered by an international football player and his ex-singer wife. Despite attempts by a covert sect within the legal profession to destroy this truth, the Tussaud Protectors still hold the last remaining evidence in its vaults.Will the truth be protected? Will the reincarnation play for Man Utd? Dan Brown's explosive sequel in your bookshops shortly.
    David Naylor
    Mexico City, Mexico

    Re: Mobiles get set for visual radio, 21 January...sound and pictures... TV anyone?
    Didcot, UK


    A new feature to the Monitor - marking those anniversaries that might otherwise be overlooked.

    25 January is the 81st anniversary of the first Winter Olympics starting, in Chamonix.


    Re: The Dei today, 24 January. An unusual thing happened to me on the way to work this morning. There was no-one - and I mean no-one - in my carriage reading the Da Vinci Code. I had to laugh - have any other readers had similar bizarre experiences?
    Edward Higgins,

    Good to see that the Magazine's efforts to make it into Private Eye haven't stopped. In 10 reasons to be cheerful, 24 January, you say: "Relocation is 'the new Porsche' of status symbols".
    Clive Gibson

    Nigel Goodman clearly never watched Yes, Minister (Monitor letters, Friday). There are two types of "wrong" decisions politicians can make: brave and courageous. Brave will lose you a few votes, courageous will lose you the election
    London UK

    In your article In defence of 'lost' languages, 19 January, we hear yet again that the English language does not have the flexibility of other languages. The expert Mr Abley says that English cannot translate all the nuances of Inuit using as an example the verb "know", translating "nalunaiqpaa" as "he or she is no longer unaware of something". Of course if you translate in this way, it sounds stupid and stilted. English is full of nuances; how do normal people express this concept? Maybe simply "he got to hear about it" or "a little bird told him" or even "he heard it on the grapevine". If this is the opinion of a language expert, no wonder our children aren't able to learn foreign languages.
    Steve Atack
    Corato, Italy

    I know 7 days, 7 questions, 21 January, is meant to tax the brain a bit, but having two of the three celebs in the "put them in order - oldest first" question born just one day apart 60 years ago is taking things a bit far. And yes - that was the only one I got wrong....!
    Manchester, UK

    Can I refer Mal Walker of Adelaide (Monitor Letters, Friday), to the late, great Victor Borge's Phonetic Punctuation. A ready-made system of oral punctuation is there for the taking. Using sounds rather than hand signals would mean that they could used when on the phone without risk of dropping the instrument. Widespread use of it would make having to hear other people's mobile conversations entertaining rather than annoying. It might even make proceedings in the House of Commons watchable!
    Sarah Bowman
    March, UK


    A new feature to the Monitor - marking those anniversaries that might otherwise be overlooked.

    24 January is the 33rd anniversary of the finding of the much-fabled Japanese soldier in the jungle, who had been there for 28 years unaware that WWII had finished.


    Every Monday Si sets a riddle for you to puzzle over.

    Spelling the End for Numbers

    What number will extend the following sequence:

    1, 6, 8, 3, 7, ?

    Send your entries using the form below.

    Your e-mail address
    Town/city and country

    The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.

    The solution to last week's riddle was that the sequence is progressive Roman numerals.

    bit contains I
    five contains I and V
    vixen contains I, V and X
    explosive contains I, V, X and L

    The next word must therefore contain I, V, X, L and C. A word that fits this criteria (and hinted at by the title) is exclusive, although other options Si found were "excursively" and "extractively". The winner was Dave Rigby of Wigan.

    Si is a contributor to the Puzzletome website.

  • Send your letters to the Magazine Monitor
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