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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 16:28 GMT
The Magazine Monitor


Welcome to The Magazine Monitor, the all-on-one-page home for some of our most popular features, including the Caption Comp, 10 Things, and your letters. The Monitor is updated every weekday, with new stuff at the top.


10 fireworks by Chris May

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

1. The collective noun for rhinos is "crash".

2. Osama Bin Laden refers to 9/11 as "Manhattan".

3. The word "electricity" was first used in English in about 1600 by Elizabeth I's physician.

4. George W Bush got the highest number of votes for president of any candidate in US history.

5. John Kerry got the second highest number.

6. There may be no ice in summer at the North Pole by 2070, according to one projection of global warming trends.

7. Geri Halliwell's pet dog once went to the toilet on Tony Blair's carpet at Chequers.

8. Meat Loaf collects Teddy bears.

9. On the night of the US election, when political junkies around the world were glued to their TVs, Tony Blair went to bed at 2230 GMT.

10. Germany has an 18-year-old MP - Julia Bonk, a member of the Saxony legislature. Her name is not funny in German.

Thanks this week to Andrew Nicholson and Bryce Cooke. If you see something that should be included next week, tell us using the form below.

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Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.


Your mission, should you choose to accept it...

There have been more house price stories this week, suggesting the market is cooling down. In fact, whether prices are going up, down or standing still, there are always house price stories.

And that's because people won't stop talking about house prices, even if they're not planning to buy or sell.

So what else do people talk about too much? What are your friends always banging on about? What's the most boring or annoying topic of conversation that you've had to endure?

Tell us how to avoid the Most Boring Conversation Imaginable. It would be a service to us all.

The best of your suggestions are listed below.

Conversation stoppers:

Have you? They're nice little cars, aren't they? We bought one for the maid.
David Dee, Maputo Mozambique

Talk about something even more boring. I'd like to suggest airline sick bags as a possible subject. I used to work with someone who collected sick bags.
Dougie Lawson, Basingstoke, UK

Actually, I AM a wheel-clamper.
David Dee, Maputo Mozambique

Answer to the inevitable "which route did you take to get here, I always find that....." by saying "we had the blinds drawn, you'd better ask the chauffeur." That should change the subject.
Trevor, Bloomsbury UK

Your colonoscopy? Oh, goodness, that must have been my pager going off.
Candace, New Jersey, US

Conversations to stop

The US Election. It's over and still people are banging on about it. We didn't even get to vote in it! Get over it!
Jane, Crawley

Parking in my street. That's been going on for over 15 years and shows no sign of abating.
Charles, England

I'm dreading turning 40 as it seems the older male generation only ever talk about roads - best routes, new bypasses, bad drivers.
Tom Gordon, Perth

I introduced the "Aren't Princess Di conspiracy theories a load of rubbish" topic once to an audience who I thought was on my wavelength. Two hours and many theories later...
Steve, Exeter, UK


Re: US Election theories, Thursday, sales of Halloween masks in the US have predicted the result of the last six, (as of yesterday, seven) US elections. Masks with the face of Bush outsold Kerry 53% to 47%. (Source is here).
Dudley Curtis
Brussels, Belgium

(The BBC is not responsible for external sites).

You say: "Since the death of John Kennedy, no US president has had a surname longer than two syllables - and in the past 30 years, Ronald Reagan has been the only Republican candidate with more than one syllable in his surname. So the message for 2008 is not to worry about the length of the candidate, just focus on the length of their name. " Bad news for Hillary Clinton then.

In Roundabout magic, 2 November, Clive Greenaway, "officially one of Britain's best drivers" stated "Roundabouts are designed by engineers so that there's a clear view of the traffic coming from the right. It should be easy to see if there's enough time to pull out, or not." I don't know where he lives and drives but he might find it instructive to come to Elgin where I can point out several roundabouts where it's impossible to see the traffic coming in from the right due to high walls, street furniture, sculptures and plants often seemed deliberately placed to obscure, especially planting which is rarely maintained
Elgin, Scotland

Re: Bush Declares Election victory, 3 November. You report: "He set out a conservative social and economic agenda for his second four-year term, singling out tax reform, social security and education as priorities". That's a lot of singles!

Someone in Havant might be Extremely Disgruntled, but now your readers elsewhere in the world (of whom there are many) can finally have a go at the Lunchtime Bonus Question without having to get up in the middle of the night to do them! Thanks BBC!
Mark Wilson
Christchurch, New Zealand


This week's picture for the caption competition, which featured Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and Uncle Sam, feels like it wouldn't be quite so funny following the events yesterday in Iraq. Normal service will resume next week - apologies to all those who took part.


President Bush's election triumph saw the downfall of some unorthodox, but well-established methods of forecasting the winning candidate.

BBC News Magazine readers had sent in their top tips for how to predict the winner (10 unusual ways to pick a president), with the most popular being that the tallest candidate was the most likely to win.

But John Kerry's height did not translate into extra headroom in the electoral stakes and George W. Bush saw off his taller rival.

Another trend bucked by the Republican victory was linking the presidential winner with sports results - specifically the performance of the Washington Redskins football team in the match before the election.

The Redskins lost (Redskins loss lifts Kerry's bid), which since the 1930s has meant that the incumbent faced defeat.

But President Bush's presidential touchdown meant the end of this enduring electoral omen.

Another apparently infallible theory, elegantly expressed by reader Fotini Christia in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was that the candidate with the best hair was the most likely winner.

This showed with academic rigour that since the 18th century, elections have been about what's happening on top of the candidates' heads, as much as what is going on inside their heads.

And with the belief that John Kerry had the luxury model in the hair department it was expected that he would have the advantage.

But this 200-year old tradition was ditched in this week's poll result - unless it could be argued that the haircut of the less bushy Bush was more in keeping with a security-conscious, military-aware country.

However, the starting point for this search for alternative ways of picking a winner, did prove correct. And that was the theory that the US presidential system works in favour of candidates with short names (Short names, short odds).

And the election of the two-syllable George Bush over the tri-syllabic John Kerry maintained this dominance of soundbite-friendly names that are short enough to look good on a bumper sticker.

Since the death of John Kennedy, no US president has had a surname longer than two syllables - and in the past 30 years, Ronald Reagan has been the only Republican candidate with more than one syllable in his surname.

So the message for 2008 is not to worry about the length of the candidate, just focus on the length of their name.


As a dual UK/US citizen, I was at the party at the US embassy last night (Election night at the embassy, 3 November). Your correspondent got it right about the predominance of Kerry badges - but I thought I'd add a few more famous faces I noticed - Charles Kennedy and his wife, John Redwood, Alistair Campbell, plus various well-known meeja types. My verdict on the party - it was better last time around!
Alice, London, UK

To the Extremely Disgruntled Havant. I quote: "Answer-anytime-you-like". I wonder what your boss would say about that.
Josh D, Leicstershire


Here are this week's winners for Punorama, our pun-writing competition.

Readers were invited to write a punning headline for a story about a drunken thief who burgled a house but left behind a key-ring containing his own name and picture.

This prompted lots of entertaining entries along the lines of "you've been framed", "key evidence" and variations on "key-phone cops".

But there were also new approaches to a familiar line, a particularly succinct summary and a wince-inducing pun.

Lock him up, but don't throw away the key!
Jon Eames, UK

Sarah Wakely, UK

Yale never get away with this
Martin Price, UK

But the winning entry, encapsulating the story in four words was:

Fob dobs slob yob
Pat Murphy, UK


Good things to read on other websites

  • As eyes turn again to the US, a taste of a treat to come, as Tom Wolfe tells the Guardian how he wrote his new novel with pen and paper. "This may turn out to be the last book ever written that way," he says.

  • And while many of those eyes will be on the exact result in Clark County, Ohio, to see exactly what impact that newspaper's letter-writing campaign had, thoughts may turn to wondering how exactly votes are counted? Or failing that, how do they announce who has won before the votes are counted? Wired magazine has a few tips.

  • And for an inside steer, although it might not immediately make much sense, is ABC News's insider guide, The Note, though this story from the New Yorker might make it all a bit clearer.

    Send your suggestions for the Reading List using the form on the right. And please, please remember, the BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites. Next week, as a special treat, no mention of America OR elections.


    I just wanted to say a grateful thank you and welcome back (The Lunchtime Bonus Question returns. My lunchtimes now make sense.

    All very well, but since the rule changes, it's hardly the Lunchtime Bonus Question anymore. You might as well call it the "Answer-anytime-you-like-Three-A.M.-and-I've-still-got-insomnia-Bonus-Question". Not being able to squeeze an answer out whilst snatching a quick bite between irritating phone calls means that you might as well log on in the evening and do that instead of waiting to see what the answer is at afternoon tea break not that I get one of those any way.
    Extremely Disgruntled

    Apparently, "Half of all main post offices could be closed or sold off under plans being considered by Royal Mail." (Main post offices could be axed, 1 November. I hope it's not the front half, otherwise we won't even know they're there at all.

    In On-the-spot fines for shoplifters, 1 November, you report: "Fines will be applied to shoplifters where the value of the goods taken is less than 100." Sounds a good deal to me. Nick less than 100 of goods and hope you don't get caught first time. Even if you get caught second time you are up 20. After getting caught you stop. How about fining based on ability to pay to stop such gambles?

    Florence Nightingale realised "hygiene was important at the micro level" when a dead horse was removed from Scutari hospital's sewers (The multi-faceted lady with the lamp, 31 October) Good job there wasn't a macro blockage then.
    Quentin Smith


    Most popular stories in the Magazine in October.

    1. In top spot was Who watches murder videos?, 12 October, looking at the uncomfortable truth of who is it that watches the grainy video of killings like that of Ken Bigley.

    2. Second place goes to So what colour was Jesus, 27 October, which came after he was named in a poll as top black icon.

    3. Next was the tale about Teflon's sticky situation, 7 October, reporting on concerns about the chemicals involved in its production.

    4. In fourth place was Security under the skin, 15 October, which looked at the possibilities for implanation of chips in humans.

    5. And fifth most popular this month was Classroom affairs, 26 October, another uncomfortable tale, this time about pupils and teachers who get involved with each other outside the classroom.


    Each Monday Si sets a riddle for you to puzzle over. Enter using the form below. The answer, and winner, will be revealed next Monday.

    Word Pyramid

    Starting with an 8-letter word, remove one letter at a time to form words with the following meanings:

    ruled (7)
    band (6)
    entrails (5)
    seasoned (4)
    split (3)

    Give the original word as well as its five derivatives.

    Your e-mail address
    Town/city and country

    Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.

    The answer to last week's riddle was Helen. Si explains thus: " The nonsense words are all anagrams of 'opposites'. Nerthusaura - Uranus eartH,
    Malleefame - Male femalE,
    Trothalls - Short talL,
    Noddlebark - Dark blondE,
    Wivethightoner - Overweight thiN.

    "As you can see, arranged like this, the gent from Uranus's name is spelt down one side and at the opposite side is the name of his earthly partner, Helen."

    Most people who entered thought the answer was EFTBT. Sue from Royston, UK, said: "As she's a tall, thin, blonde, female from Earth, she's probably called Kate (or maybe Chardonnay...)." Philip Mittleman, of Westport, CT, said: "Her name is Eftbt (pronounced "Cheryl"). This may not be fair, because I know them."

    But the winner, chosen at random from the correct entries was Andy Knight, from Northampton.

    Si is a contributor to the Puzzletome website.

  • Send your letters to the Magazine Monitor
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