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Last Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
The Magazine Monitor


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

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


    10 THINGS
    10 finger sausages by Wolf Kettler

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

    1. The average computer keyboard is reportedly infected with 3,295 germs.

    2. 70% of internet porn traffic occurs during work hours.

    3. Brad Pitt's full name is William Bradley Pitt.

    4. Meanwhile, the biography of William Pitt the younger is the second most popular book for MPs to take on holiday, after the Da Vinci Code.

    5. According to Amnesty International, 1,195 people were killed by police in Rio de Janeiro in 2003.

    6. England batsman Marcus Trescothick ate steak for the first time when he was 27.

    7. The day when most suicides occurred in the UK between 1993 and 2002 was 1 January, 2000.

    8. The only day in that time when no-one killed themselves was 16 March, 2001, the day Comic Relief viewers saw Jack Dee win Celebrity Big Brother.

    9. So-called "Lotto lout" Michael Carroll gets gay fan mail.

    10. One of the eight ravens at the Tower of London, Thor, can say "Good morning".

    Thanks this week to Molly Swann and Stephen Buxton. If you spot anything that should be included next week, use the form below to tell us about it.

    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.


    On Thursday we asked for mathematically-minded Magazine readers to inspect the algebra in the formula which had been devised for the perfect long weekend.

    Here are your comments:

    "P is time spent packing"
    "Pr..time spent in preparation"
    Surely simply adding a multiple of these two figures means it is posible to have a good long weekend by packing for 10 hours and preparing for 40, you instantly have a result (when adding everything else) above 400, bingo you've had a great time, pure genius.
    Robert, Warrington

    Cliff Arnall's formula fails a basic test of any mathematical formula: that it should be dimensionally correct. In other words, if you're adding two terms, they should be of the same dimension (e.g. time, area, volume, electric current etc.) His formula adds a time quantity (the fraction) to a time-squared quantity (PxPr) so the result is nonsense.
    Gareth Jones, Oxford, England

    Where should I start? Well, for one thing, we haven't been told what units to use: minutes? hours? seconds? Next, still considering units, the formula breaks down to say "(time + time^2) > 400" which is a hideous and useless quadratic at the best of times. And finally, "formula won" ("w-unn") doesn't sound like "formula one" ("w-onn") in my accent. Perhaps I'm too Scottish ...
    Lucy Jones, Manchester

    Two points. First, he seems to say that the longer you spend packing the better. Does this guy LIKE packing? Second, if you stay at home, the travel time and delay is zero. So you divide by zero, giving infinity as an answer. This is easily bigger than 400, so stay at home for a guaranteed good bank holiday weekend! Mind you, he may have something there...
    Jo Edkins, Cambridge, UK

    Does watching the Test Match count as cultural? If not time spent on cultural activities (C)=0 and I can't have a perfect weekend unless I spend 20 hours packing and 20 hours preparing?
    Andy, Cambridge, UK

    According to your formula, I should be having an infinitely perfect bank holiday - since my travel time and delay time is zero, and as you know division by zero gives infinity. Unfortunately, I'm going to spend the holiday digging up my garden, in a final attempt to get rid of the bricks, branches and concrete that the builders left in it -a long way from my idea of a perfect bank holiday (which also does not include travel, but does include chilled wine, a deckchair and a good book). I suggest the addition of +1 after the D term would avoid this.
    Valerie, Wigan, UK

    Cliff Arnall has missed one variable: M = time spent monitoring time-usage during the weekend to make sure you follow the formula.
    Tommi H, Cambridge

    It's not a bank holiday weekend here so I won't be going anywhere, hence travel time is zero and there are no delays which will result in a division-by-zero error. Not a good way to start the weekend.
    Kevin Waite, Irvine, Ayrshire


    Some typists touch their keyboards up to 80,000 times a day
    And there you were, happily tapping out an e-mail on your computer keyboard...

    Maybe you'll think twice after hearing that, according to research, a typical computer keyboard is infected with 3,295 germs.

    According to researched published in Friday's Sun newspaper, typical keyboards carry traces of urine, blood, nasal droppings, saliva and worms, as well as public hairs. A flu virus can survive for many hours living in a keyboard, according to the paper.

    All of which is bound to put you off taking lunch at your desk.

    For the week's Friday objective, we want your ideas for how to stay hygienic while toiling at your work-station. Plastic gloves, a mini-vac to suck up all those discarded bits of worm. As always, be as creative as you like - originality is always rewarded in the Friday Objective.

    Anti virus software always works for me! Bu-bum, chi!
    Stephen Robertson, UK

    For some time now I have been using a telepathic interface. It guarantees complete hygiene as long as nobody thinks dirty thoughts.... Darn! Now I need a new one.
    James, Brightest Africa

    I find spilling a boiling hot cup of coffee over the keyboard works, but don't use sugarrrrrrrr
    Kieran Boyle, England

    Well, I certainly don't have any "public hairs" on my keyboard...
    Rick Selby, UK

    Delegate all keyboard duties - let the office juniors earn their stripes by getting contaminated instead.
    Sharon, UK

    Using double sided sticky tape, stick the base of the keyboard to your bottom. Simply manouvre your body so that the key you wish to depress is in line with the edge of a table. I estimate that with practice one could type as much as a whole sentence in an hour.
    Neil D, London

    Simply replace your PC with a Sinclair ZX81 and hey presto, a wipe clean keyboard!
    Brian Saxby, Gateshead, UK

    Using item available in the office - elastic bands and pencils, attach a pencil to each finger using an elastic band. You need never touch the keyborad again. If you get concerned about the pencils becoming infected simply use a sharpener which has the added benefit of making the pencils easier to use. PLEASE NOTE - Do not over sharpen as you could end up with very short fingers !
    Neil D, London

    I merely make sure there are more germs on me than on my computer. This makes it statistically highly unlikely that I will accrue a net gain of germs from touching the keyboard.
    Tom C, Wales

    Get someone else to do the work for you..............be the boss !
    Neil D, London

    I work at a scientific institution, and we actually do use rubber gloves when using a computer in the lab. Who knew that we'd be better off using them in the office?
    Helen, UK

    Wrap Sellotape sticky-side up around the office hedgehog. Then let it run over the keyboard.
    Philip, Brussels


    It's time for the caption competition.

    This week, England cricketer Matthew Hoggard meets a Pekinese dog, also named Matthew Hoggard, during a practice session at Trent Bridge. But what's being said?

    6. Bottly, UK
    "Come on Matthew, leave Yorkshire and come and play for bark-shire."

    5. Bryn Roberts, Bristol, UK
    Scooby and Shaggy had really let themselves go.

    4. Euan Lockwood, Loughborough, UK
    The bar was raised somewhat with the new "Show no fear" training ahead of the match.

    3. Neil Franklin, UK
    "Gingy ngy kung gack you ikkle gik."

    2. James Stevens, UK
    The Lady and the Tramp re-enactment didn't really work without the spaghetti.

    1. Sue Lee, Twickenham, UK
    It wasn't the fact that it was their first date that made passing the chewing gum so unsavoury - it was the fact that it was Chum flavour...


    Newspapers logo
    It's our final instalment of silly season madness.

    5. Kirsten Dunst, an actress, wears shorts. In sunny LA. (Mirror)

    4. A kingfisher, a bird of prey, catches a fish. (Mail)

    3. Mike Skinner, a young man, wear trainers. The same brand he always does. (Independent, Metro)

    2. A man has written a work of fiction about his workplace. (Mail and others)

    1. A hawk, another bird of prey, is suspected of killing a pigeon. (Daily Telegraph)


    In Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz, 53% of you correctly answered that men are more likely to have genius level IQs. The rest were evenly split between thinking it was women and that both sexes were evenly represented. Today's Daily Mini-Quiz is on the Magazine's index now the technical problems have been resolved.


    Formula Won is our occasional feature which examines unlikely formulas which make it into the news.

    The good news for fans of Formula Won is that Cardiff University's Cliff Arnall has been busy again. Fresh from having told us the formulas for the best day for making a resolution (18 May) and which was the most depressing day (24 January), he has come up with the formula for the perfect long weekend.

    Here goes. It's based on an assumption that a long weekend is 72 hours long.

    (CxRxZz)/[(Tt +D)xSt] +(PxPR) > 400

    Tt is Travel Time (ideally making up no more than 10% of the total)
    D is delays
    C is time spent on cultural activities
    R is time spent relaxing (C and R together should be about 60% of the total)
    Zz is time spent sleeping (Recommended 20% of total)
    St is time spent stressing
    P is time spent packing
    Pr does not, as you might expect, stand for public relations. It is for time spent in preparation

    Dr Arnall explains: "Try to strike the right balance when you get to your destination between stimulation and relaxation to ensure you make the most of your trip. Through my research into what makes people happy, the formula above is a good guide to make sure you don't come back to work on Tuesday needing another break. "The key thing to remember is that the more time spent on travelling and being stressed, the less time there is to enjoy the culture and relax, which is more often than not the reasons we choose to go away in the first place."

    And here's the element you've been wondering about - the formula has been devised in association with Hotels.com.

    As ever, mathematically minded Monitor readers are invited to examine the formula closely and send their observations using the form on the right hand side of the page.


    Newspapers logo
    There's life in the silly season yet.

    5. Sienna Miller, an actress, wears a long-sleeved top. (Mirror)

    4. Burning issue: Has John Prescott got a wig? (Independent)

    3. Mel Gibson, a man, has a beard. He looks a bit like Saddam Hussein, another man, who also has a beard. (Mail)

    2. A bank has told its staff not to wear flip flops. (Times)

    1. Prince Harry, a young man, went swimming - in summer. (Sun)


    In Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, 51% of you said that OB1 was the number plate on sale for 500,000, and 5% said it was GS1. It was, in fact, V1, which 44% of you picked correctly. Today's Daily Mini-Quiz is on the Magazine's index now.


    Letters logo
    Re: Piano Man: What's the score?, 23 August. It's interesting how his silence unwittingly incriminated him. He chose to remain mute, but journalism as a whole created a fantastical Hollywood filmscript, safe in the knowledge that he was unlikely to counteract the media interest. He vocally entertained neither theories about his persona nor his widely proclaimed abilities.
    Matt Bolton,

    I have to admit, I wanted the Piano Man to be much more than he actually was, and that maybe the music could help him find his true identity again. I wasn't too disappointed when he had been identified and flown home. As it turns out he wasn't alone after all.
    Chicago, IL - US

    The article UK alcohol sales 'buck the trend', 24 August, headlines that the British are drinking more (with potentially worrying consequences). However, the average German drinker consumes 208 units to the average British drinkers 153 units (your figures from the article - I've got the spreadsheet). How about an article on German 20-24-year-old binge drinkers and when we'll catch them up?

    Re: Numbers Game: Being a student of maths, I often come across "interesting numbers." My favourite such number is negative one (or, -1). By a formula called Euler's Identity, "-1" is equal to "e" raised to the exponent "i" times "pi". Confused? "e" is the base of natural logarithms, "i" is the square root of negative one, and "pi" is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. If I've lost you, don't panic. The 19th Century mathematician Benjamin Peirce told his students: "It is absolutely paradoxical ... we cannot understand it, and we don't know what it means. But we have proved it, and therefore know it must be the truth." I like it because it ties together four very different areas of math into one neat little package. It is something of terrifying beauty - at least to a mathematician.
    Toronto, Canada

    Re: Justin Timberlake winning his libel case (Timberlake wins libel damages, 24 August). Wish I had his problems.

    Ref: Ian from Bristol's letter on Tuesday... Ackie 123? Surely you mean 40-40-in? And the offending player in question is quite clearly a "pole-hanger", not a cabbager.


    Mike Leigh

    It's time for Punorama.

    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.

    The story for this week is that all the 16,000 tickets for Mike Leigh's new play at the National Theatre have sold, even though no one but its cast and director have a clue what it's about.

    Another outstanding crop...

    Mike Leigh's cinematic exploits provided inspiration for some - Secrets and no lines, said Andy, London; Secrets and Leighs, Eliot Beer, Cardiff, Wales. Along the same lines as that last one, was Coventry's Gerard Krupa, with Secret Leigh successful.

    Also with a nod to cinema was What's It All About Mike Leigh? - thanks to both Nigel Greensitt, Walkden, UK, and Terry Adlam.

    Theatrical tradition was employed by Chris Field, US, with Waiting for God-knows, and Andy Kitchen, of Cheltenham, was one of a few to come up with Much Ado About Nothing.

    Other choice entries included The emperor's new prose (Jason S, Southampton, UK); It's a myster-Leigh (Cassie, Manchester, UK); Leigh-p of faith (Brian Ritchie, Oxford, UK and Angela Barlow, Liverpool); Willing suspension of disbe-Leigh-f (SC, London); Roll up for the Mr Leigh play! (Jon Braybrook, Fleet, Hants, UK)

    Two in particular stood out - Keith, from Whitstable's Leigh wins 16,000 on National Lottery and for sheer adept punning, Sold out - indefinite Leigh, from Muhammad Isa, Watford, UK.


    It's back to the silly season. Stories from today's papers include:

    5. There's lots of really rude places to live. Know a resident of Spanker Lane or Pratts Bottom? (Daily Mail)

    4. A puppy has been born with five legs. (Sun)

    3. Security sensors protecting the Royals at Balmoral keep being set off by ducks. (Times and others)

    2. Prince Harry, a young man, ordered a burger from McDonald's. (Sun)

    1. Sienna Miller has scratched her arm. (Mirror and many others)


    In Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, only 36% of you correctly answered that William Hague's biography of Pitt was the top political summer read among MPs. More of you mistakenly thought it was Bill Clinton's My Life (41%). Today's Daily Mini-Quiz is on the Magazine's index now.


    Letters logo
    Re The CV detectives, 22 August. While I have never lied on my CV, I do find interviews quite frustrating. Interviewers always ask the sort of questions interviewees expect to be asked (are you a team player? Can you handle unexpected situations? etc...), interviewees give the answers the interviewers want to hear, and no one really finds out anything about the other.
    Robert Phillips,
    Cardiff, UK

    Is it bad that the first thing I thought of when seeing the title of Toshiba's new DVD format, 'HD-DVD', was 'high definition digital venereal disease'?
    Ashtead, UK

    Isaac Asimov was far better placed to comment on lightning rods than was Sir Isaac Newton (re Gary Michael's letter) so it is appropriate that the comment was his.
    Steve C,
    London Docklands

    Dom M writes about the competition between iTunes and Napster. But he fails to appreciate that burning and re-ripping introduces an extra lossy compression stage that will lead to a degradation in sound quality. The answer is of course either to keep buying CDs, as they can be ripped into whatever format you want. The main issue is that DRM is inherently flawed, as the BBC's own Bill Thompson pointed out.
    Neil Golightly,
    Manchester, UK

    Thanks to Matt M for the rules for cabbaging, published in the Monitor last week. When younger, "cabbaging" referred to the cowardly (but perhaps tactically astute) habit of never venturing far from the post in Ackie 123 (a hide and seek variation) so that once you spotted someone it was easy to beat them in the race back. It's nice to see this word resurrected with it's meaning reversed - trying to get as far away from the starting point as possible.


    Newspapers logo
    A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

    Another silly season countdown.

    5. Charlotte Church, a young woman, wears underwear. (Sun, Mirror)

    4. Dogs look different depending what mood they are in. (Double page picture spread, Express)

    3. Rick Parfitt gave up drinking when he couldn't remember the Status Quo chords. The Sun, amusingly asks: "What, Rick? All three of them?"

    2. A 12-year-old boy is being paid 44,000 a year to appear in Coronation Street. (Express)

    1. Some old folk have had a sing-song. (Double page picture spread in all papers, plus reviews of the gig, and articles extolling the virtues of the over-60s. Also some 'Can't get no satisfaction' puns.)


    In Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz, 46% of you correctly answered that the average cost of a wedding gift was 55.60, while 40% thought it was 33.50. So only 14% of you - who thought 59.10 a decent sum - can expect an invite should the Monitor ever wed. Today's Daily Mini-Quiz, a UK variation on last week's question about George Bush's summer reading, is on the Magazine's index now.


    Letters logo
    Am I the only one who thinks that this new term 'cabbaging' sounds a little, well, dirty?
    Mark, New York, USA

    Re Stephen Buxton's letter - how could Newton make the crack about religion and the lightning conductor, when he died 60 years before Franklin even invented it? Now that's what I call a bright bloke...
    Gary Michael, Wellingborough

    Re Rachel, of Manitoba, Canada asking "how do you know how many miles your mouse has travelled so far?" Many mice, especially on Windows, have a 'mileometer' in the control panel that tells you exactly how far your mouse has travelled. If it doesn't, it would be fairly easy to install one.
    Adrian Milliner, London, UK

    So the Napster boss says that iTunes is a bad deal since you can only listen to purchased songs on an iPod. Not true, you can burn the songs you buy to a CD and listen on any CD player or re-rip them to use on any other MP3 player. But of course he wouldn't want to point this out since you can't burn songs with Napster's subscription model unless you pay out an extra fee for each song.
    Dom M, London, UK

    In the Friday Objective, Ricky from London reports that U and N exist solely so students can get "DUNCE" on their certificates. An acquaintance managed "FUDGE" in his GCSEs...
    Lucy Jones, Manchester

    Congratulation's to Natasha Kaplinsky on getting married to partner Justin Bower. I was, of course, disappointed on finding out she had tied the knot as I like her myself!
    Ashley Martin, Chawton, Hampshire,United Kingdom

    Re, "Man stole from 'Big Brother' star" - even in August I fail to see how the fact that someone who appeared on a TV show five years ago has had her mobile phone stolen is news.
    Jon Dalladay, London


    Every Monday Si sets you a riddle to get your brain working.

    Word Pyramid III

    Each missing word is an anagram of the one before including one additional letter. Can you find them all?

    Down by the tracks, Fred the ? looked up at a ? whilst sat upon a ?. As the ? went by, he sat just ?. Bill the ? fluttered down and started nattering about geometry and home-decorating - he was fascinated with ? and ?. Unfortunately he had forgotten about the 23:02. As Bill got a good ?, Fred's screams were ?.

    Your e-mail address
    Your solution

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

    Last week's riddle was entitled Double or Quits. The solution lay in identifying the double letters of each word that appeared in the passage - terror, feeling, passing, skiing, goggles, running, need, bidding. Put together they spell RESIGNED.

    Selected at random, the winner is... Phaedra Williams, of Bristol. Congratulations.


    Newspapers logo
    Congratulations to the think tank called Reform, which has managed to fashion a neat acronym to help publicise research which reveals that young people are in a lot of debt, as reported in the Daily Mail.

    Today's under 35s are Insecure, Pressurised, Over-taxed and Debt-ridden - piece those initials together and what do you get: IPOD. Just a little contrived perhaps.

    The Daily Mirror meanwhile has dramatic pictures of Ali G star Sacha Baron Cohen gate-crashing a ceremony for Pamela Anderson's dog's wedding, on a beach in Malibu, California. He was led away by security guards.

    Hold on... her dog's wedding! So it seems. Ms Anderson, clutching a bouquet of roses, was apparently presiding over the nuptials of her golden retriever Star - the bride - to a chihuahua called Luca - the groom.


    In Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz, 36% of you correctly answered that the service charge on the bill of a man who sprayed 26,000-worth of champagne around a bar, was 2,969.83 - 12.5% of the bill. Today's Daily Mini-Quiz is on the Magazine's index now.

  • Send your letters to the Magazine Monitor
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