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 THINGS WE DIDN'T KNOW THIS TIME LAST WEEK
Snippets harvested from the week's news, chopped, sliced and diced for your weekend convenience.
1. Ruth Kelly, the new education secretary, lives in an ex-council flat in east London. In fact, it's two-adjoining flats knocked into one.
2. Some 26 million adults - more than half the adult population - lack maths or English skill levels expected of school-leavers.
3. Pugilist-turned-panto dame Frank Bruno is working in a long pantomime tradition. Champion boxers appeared in pantomimes 250 years ago.
4. Street brawlers sometimes arm themselves with potato peelers, according to the Home Office, which wants to make them banned weapons.
5. Dom Perignon, the Benedictine monk, was originally employed by his abbey to get the bubbles out of the champagne, according to Gerard Liger-Belair's new book,
Uncorked: the Science of Champagne.
6. Brussels sprouts have three times as much vitamin C as oranges.
7. Boxing Day is named after the money (Christmas box) given to servants, gardeners and other tradespeople in appreciation for work done throughout the year.
8. The deep-fried Mars Bar is no urban myth. More than one in five Scottish chippies serve them, along with deep fried Snickers, Creme Eggs and pizza.
9. Australians can buy washing powder with a chemical compound that penetrates fabric and absorbs the sun's harmful UV rays.
10. One in 12 of the country's workforce is a cleaner, according to the British Cleaning Council.
FRIDAY CHALLENGE FRI 17 DECEMBER 1300GMT
Your mission should you choose to accept it...
These week you are requested to turn detective. The Monitor this week received a Christmas card, in a normal-sized envelope, but on which the address had been typed with an old-fashioned typewriter. The address showed evidence of a mistake having been corrected with Tipp-Ex. The postmark was too indistinct to read. The flap was not sealed, but rather tucked down inside the envelope.
The card was unremarkable, with no particular distinguishing factors. And there was no writing inside. None at all. In short there was no indication whatsoever who had sent this card.
So your challenge is to come up with a way of determining who sent it. After all, a lot rides on this. Is it from a much-loved but forgetful old relative? Is it from someone who is formal enough to be expecting a reply? Could it be something more sinister? A rogue postman's revenge for Going Postal, perhaps? Your ideas please, using the form below. The best will be posted throughout Friday.
If it was originally posted in the London area the letter may have been circulating for years, hence a type writer was used for the envelope and the postcode was worn away. As the gum dried out the attached letter and £10 note probably 'fell out' during delivery. I shouldn't worry about replying as they're probably no longer with us...
I suggest a frustrated LBQ contributor - they gave you the card, now you think of the message.
I confess, it was me. I didn't sign the card so that, in these days of BBC cutbacks, you might be able to use it yourselves. P.S. The correction on the envelope was because it was originally sent to me. Last year. Also, sorry about the stain.
Stig, London, UK
You seem not to have read the latest BBC directive on cost-cutting measures. You are supposed to Tipp-Ex out the address, type in the next department in alphabetical order, and send it on.
David Dee, Maputo Mozambique
Unless it was one of those new self adhesive stamps, DNA may be the key. The stamp will have been licked. Recent reports suggest that DNA can be related directly to surnames - this will immediately reduce the field considerably.
The number of Typewriters left in the UK must be comparatively small - again reducing the number - and by careful analysis of the typeface and ink it may be possible to narrow the field to a particular brand or even model of typewriter.
A simple broadcast appeal for anyone called X with a typewriter of Brand Y should reveal you correspondent. If more than one person comes forward - there may be finger-print evidence on the card to nail the culprit!
Even if the stamp was self adhesive - and the type-writer a common brand you could probably narrow your search to two or three hundred souls.
Now if it had been printed on a Lexmark or an Epson or even a Cannon - No chance!
John White, Deal Kent UK
To determine who sent it, put an appeal on the BBC website and turn it in to a competition. Someone is bound to own up to sending it.
So Lord Lucan's on a publicity hunt again, eh?
John C, Oldham, UK
I wouldn't worry about it, you have a free card you can use next year.
It could be from some psychopathic stalker who instead of making silent phone calls prefers to send silent Christmas cards?
Richard Sockett, Sheffield, England
I have absolutely no idea - but when you find out please let me know, as I get one from the same person every year ...
Maggie, South London uk
Check to see if any retired Magazine employees failed to turn in their typewriters. It may, however, be from Andy Rooney, just to throw you off the scent.
Candace, New Jersey, US
Sounds like its from Ronan Keating. After all he says it best, when he says nothing at all!
John C, Oldham, UK
... and we can deduce what from this, Watson?
Well, Holmes, the card is clearly sent by an older person - say over the age of 60 - since they use a typewriter rather than a printer. However, they have access to Tippex - which one would normally find in an office environment - so one can deduce that they must work from home, and yet not need the latest technology. I would suggest that this combination is only found in authors, who are (besides) a notoriously absent-minded set of people.
Excellent, Watson. Do please continue.
We can also deduce that the person is a female, I think, Holmes, since it is usually the older female who continues with the now-outdated practice of not sticking down the envelope flap, but tucking it in. And perhaps we can also deduce that the lady must have children - or at least grandchildren - since she has obviously stopped to include her yearly newsletter, and then was interrupted and continued having forgotten to add either her name or the newsletter to the card. So we have a female author, over 60, who has a close family and knows the Magazine well enough to want to send them a newsletter.
Really well-argued, Watson.
Thank you, Holmes. Did I omit anything?
Oh, you are completely wrong in every respect Watson. But it was very well-argued. The card was actually from an obese Chinaman living in Croydon, who smokes small cigars and eats only chocolate. Let me explain..
(to be continued)
Valerie, Wigan, UK
pUBLisH my EntRY & i wILL ReVeaL mySeLF
Mark the envelope 'Return to Sender' and then follow it.
Paul McCann, Newcastle
The Post of Christmas Past?
Brian Saxby, Gateshead, UK
(Entries now closed. Thank you for your helpful suggestions.)
YOUR LETTERS FRIDAY 17 DECEMBER 1200GMT
It's interesting that a tradition of hunting is being positively encouraged in one area of the world (see Kazakhstan's eagle-hunters, 16 December), yet a tradition of hunting in our own country is being wiped out.
With the new timetable changes on the rail network (Rail firms hail services shake-up, 14 December), I now lose 73.5hrs a year waiting for the next train.
Re: 10 things everyone should know about life in the UK, 16 December, item 10. Consider your trumpet blown.
With the Freedom of Information Act coming into force on 1 January, will we now be allowed to know how the BBC selects those who are published on the LBQ?
Bristol, UK thelbq.co.uk
Re: A goat's not just for Christmas, 13 December. Imagine the leftovers if it were.
Slogan hunt: I've noticed that virtually every fish and chip shop seems to proclaim its offerings as "voted England's best 2004" or similar. I'm not sure how many such awards there are, but a restaurant near me is much less boastful, claiming to sell "probably" the best fish and chips "in the area". Maybe the Monitor should use a similarly modest title - "Probably an interesting read.. but it's not official".
CAPTION COMPETITION FRIDAY 17 DECEMBER 1200GMT
Winning entries in this week's caption competition.
This week, a Japanese shop assistant demonstrates one of this year's top Christmas presents - the "Hizamakura", or lap pillow, a life-size pillow modelled on a woman's hip and legs. Yours for just 8,980 yen, that's about £44.
6. Norma S. Seal, US
Hannibal Lecter rests between courses.
5. Bob McGlade, England
Japanese designers reverse the trend for smaller mobiles.
4. Steve Potter, ex-pat in US
"...and with the Ann Summers easy payment plan, you will soon be able to afford the rest of her."
3. Nigel Smith, UK
The magic trick that went tragically wrong: a nation weeps for Debbie McGee.
2. Neil, UK
Having grown an ear on the back of a mouse, the team became more ambitious.
1. John Stephenson, US (ex-UK)
Old joke parallel universe No. 4188: "If he won half a woman, he'd get the half that talks."
YOUR LETTERS WEDNESDAY 15 DEC 1330GMT
With regards to the 1 in 5 people not yet using the chip-and-pin cards correctly, (Shoppers 'wary' of chip and pin, 15 December), maybe these are the criminals still taking advantage of being able to forge signatures?
Armed police shoot errant sheep, 11 December. Was this ewethanasia?
Re The Internet boom for gift shopping, 14 December, I notice that there are men who "prefer to shop online to avoid the embarrassment of buying some types of presents, such as lingerie, for wives and girlfriends". Perhaps they use the internet to avoid their wives catching them buying gifts for their girlfriends?
Re your hunt for a slogan. While wandering through the souks in Marrakech the market sellers tried to lure us into their shops with the words "Cheap as chips". David Dickinson should be thrilled.
To Tom, Norwich (Monitor letters, Tuesday): I'm more bothered by the fact I would like to listen to Marilyn Monroe's views on privatisation.
No, Bryan Jeffrys (Monitor letters, Tuesday), houseblingers are the old chavs.
PUNORAMA WEDS 15 DECEMBER 1300GMT
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. Originality is what counts.
This week, your headlines please for the supermarket which is introducing trolleys with specially high handles, so that its taller-than-the-average shoppers can push it with ease.
Sainsbury's trolley buyer told reporters: "There's no doubt that more of our customers are now built like John Wayne rather than Ronnie Corbett. The average British shopper is getting taller."
Wow. You are good. Among the best of the bunch were Chariots of higher, from both Steve, London and Candace, New Jersey, US, and Stoop-ermarket no more from Mike Hatfield, High Wycombe. Shoplofting from Chrissy Mouse, London and Supermarket Steep from Guy Thompson, London.
A few chose to play on supermarket ad lines, such as Heightening the load, from Maggie, South London, and Lower Prices, Higher Customers by James Fidler, Leicester.
No shortage of plays on the word "aisle" either. Over to you, Steve from London: Aisle take the high load and Aisle of Height from Brian Ritchie, Oxford.
Thanks also for the John Wayne-inspired The High Shopper-all from Neil D, London.
Des McKeating from Norwich meanwhile added comment on Sainsbury's stock-market fortunes with Profits fall but customers rise. Finally, what about this for a neat pun: New trolleys for higher purchase from Chris B, Bromley.
Entries now closed
READING LIST TUESDAY 14 DECEMBER 1310GMT
The turbulent politics of the 60s and 70s spawned a host of revolutionary "terrorist" groups in the West, some dangerous, others less so. America had the Symbionese Liberation Army - which kidnapped and allegedly converted newspaper heiress Patty Hearst - and the Weathermen. Germany had the Red Army, or Baader-Meinhof gang. In Britain, alongside the IRA's increasingly bloody campaign, the authorities also had to contend with the actions of the almost comically-named Angry Brigade. Dipping into two recently published works about the group, including the memoir of a former member, the London Review of Books notes that one Angry Brigade member apologised by letter to one of his bomb victims.
So you've just bought an all-singing, all-dancing 3G mobile - it is, after all, the gadget de jour - and have been showing it off to those who care. Don't get too cocky. Twelve months from now the latest mobiles will boast mini TVs (New Scientist), but the high bandwidth 3G network doesn't have enough capacity to receive TV signals. So, guess what? Old fashioned TV transmitters will have to do the job instead. But that means you'll need a new phone; one with a TV tuner inside.
As the cult of Apple gets even more members, though mostly through iPods than actual computers, David McCandless, sometime contributor to the Magazine, has an alternative take on the whole thing.
What's in your pockets? The London ambulance man behind the blog Random Acts of Reality details what's on his person on an typical day, including pocket PC, examination gloves,vials of asthma medication, dressings and bandages, spare gloves and more spare gloves, keys for the ambulance, roll of medical tape, sticking plasters, pair of scissors and a half-eaten pack of mints.
Send your suggestions for next week's Reading List using the form on the right hand side of the page. Whatever you say, however, the BBC will not be responsible for the content of external websites.
YOUR LETTERS TUESDAY 14 DECEMBER 1015GMT
Re: HDTV. While its true that there are now a few HD tv channels here in North America (Set your television to wow), 90+% of people still have and buy 4:3 tvs! We have just moved here from the UK and have been surprised that people still buy large 4:3 tvs in preference to widescreen. So you see, ahead in one thing, behind in another.
Tim Barton, Vancouver, BC
Curse you, BBC! You've made me find Baroness Thatcher sexy! (How the brain recognises a face) Some Like It Hot will never be the same again.
I notice in your story A goat's not just for Christmas, Alexie Jell's mother 'has the photo of the gorilla sitting on her piano.' Notwithstanding the fact this must have been a pretty big and strong piano, did the gorilla tickle the ivories too?
James Dawkins, London
The weather forecaster on Mondays BBC news programme stated "Today's weather will be a repeat of tomorrows". It's nice to see the Tardis is still in working condition for the new series!
Ian Sharrock, Chorley, Lancs
Re Wonderbra failures. Your report states that "less than a handful" are affected. I presume from this that anyone with more than a handful is in real trouble.
Geoff Harrison, Alsager, Cheshire
So Curry's has abandoned its old slogan "always cutting prices". And yet the Monitor is still searching for its own slogan. Here's the chance to seize the initiative - The Monitor: Always cutting comments
Philippa Dunn, Wellington
Are houseblingers the new chavs?
Brian Jeffrys, York
YOUR LETTERS MON 13 DECEMBER 1140GMT
Re: Ad Breakdown: Celebs join Christmas rush, 10 December, I think the words of the late Bill Hicks need to be invoked at this point: "You do a commercial - you're off the artistic roll call, forever. End of story." It is a prostitution of image, a soulless attempt to make money through selling one's body and persona by associating it with a product. Every individual who uses their status of "celebrity" to sell a product is no longer an artist, but a salesperson.
Oh stop complaining. I'm sure we all would "sell our souls" to some multinational, if not for a pile of cash, then for something different, and light-hearted, to do. Also remember that fame is fickle game. One second you're hot, the next you're not. Can we really blame these celebrities for making the most of their A-list status while they still can?
Almost as baffling as Curry's using Linda Barker is the fact that they've changed their jingle from "always cutting prices" to "always lowering prices", which barely fits the music.
Re 10 things we didn't know this time last week, 11 December, and the introduction of the word "houseblinger" to describe someone whose house is over decorated with Christmas lights. This is the house opposite me: I think it qualifies.
Just a wild guess, but I think that the average entry for last week's caption competition, 10 December, were not as tame as the ones listed as the "winning entries".
Re: The great bus sale, 10 December. Typical, you wait 50 years for a used bus, and then 200 come at once.
SI'S RIDDLE MON 13 DECEMBER 1015GMT
Every Monday, Si sets a riddle for you to puzzle over.
All Saints' Day
My first is the sixth of the seventeenth of the third
My second is the first of the thirtieth of the eleventh
My third is the third of the fourteenth of the second
My fourth is the sixth of the twenty-third of the fourth
My fifth is the second of the thirtieth of the eleventh
My sixth is the fifth of the first of the third
My seventh is the second of the fourteenth of the second
My eighth is the fourth of the seventeenth of the third
Send your solutions using this form. Answers next Monday.
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 is that the figures were the atomic numbers of the following chemical elements: P I Er C Er O Ge Ra Nd Ti Mo Th Y, ie Pierce, Roger and Timothy (ie James Bond actors). The winner was David Long, Northumberland.
Si is a contributor to the Puzzletome website.