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Last Updated: Friday, 11 March, 2005, 17:46 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: E-cyclopedia
  • WEDS: Punorama
  • THURS: Caption comp
  • FRI: Friday Objective
  • SAT: 10 things we didn't know this time last week


    10 THINGS
    10 red noses by Bryce Cooke

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

    1. Nelson lost half his right eyebrow in battle, as well as sight in his right eye.

    2. A six-pack, in paramilitary punishment terms, allegedly involves being shot in the ankles, knees and elbows.

    3. John Travolta says he hasn't drunk alcohol since getting drunk for the first time. "I drink water even with my lunch and dinner. Occasionally I drink some tea, but mostly I drink just water," he told a Serbian magazine.

    4. Bill Wyman loves metal detecting and has found more than 300 coins, including a gold half-noble from 1361

    5. In America it's possible to subpoena a dog.

    6. The 88-storey Shanghai Grand Hyatt Hotel has the world's longest laundry chute (according to the Economist newspaper).

    7. On an average Saturday, 35,000 people will shop in Harrods (according to BBC Two's The Apprentice).

    8. The mother of Gavin Arvizo, the boy Michael Jackson is accused of molesting, is now called Janet Jackson, after marrying Major Jay Jackson of the US Army.

    9. The 71 million packets of biscuits sold annually by United Biscuits, owner of McVitie¿s, generate 127.8 tonnes of crumbs.

    10. By country of birth, there were approximately 100,000 more Germans than Bangladeshis living in England and Wales, according to the 2001 census.

    Thanks to Ed Tufton, London, Andy Nicholson, Milton Keynes

    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.


    Re: Imogen Hitchcock's query about the demographics of readers (Monitor Letters, Wednesday: I obviously fit into neither category as I am under 35 and read it when I get home from work, straight after reading the news pages and the Have Your Say section (where incidently I have never had a comment published, even the good ones.)
    Kay, Folkestone, England

    Another reply for Imogen Hitchcock. I am 18-years-old and in full-time employment. I think I've spent about four hours in which I should have been working in the last week looking at this website.
    Jack, Hants, UK

    Re: Mars cuts 700 from UK workforce10 March. Globalisation's logical next step?
    Mike Hobbins, Fort Collins, CO, USA (ex-pat Brit)

    Re Steve's query about what "International Number 1 best-seller" means (Anti Book Club, Thursday). It can mean anything. Number 1 best-seller by that author, number 1 best-seller in an obscure country or even number 1 best-selling book in a series. Or it can be a total lie.
    S Murray,
    Chester, UK

    I know the Friday Challenge is no longer welcome, but I spotted this in a BBC News article and had to share: "Journalists have always been in a fox hole but the shooting is now 24/7 and coming from 360 degrees." (From The changing face of US news, 10 March) I mean, seriously, wasn't there a challenge not so long ago working out how many cliches we could fit in one sentence?
    Lucy Jones, Manchester

    Is 'Brent Watch' still running (in which we are invited to submit stories which shamelessly use references to David Brent? I would like to nominate £4m art revamp for maligned town, an article regarding artwork on Slough High St for gross misuse of a photo of David Brent and other 'Office' staff.

    Re: Dr Who being leaked on the web. If it is to have any credibility, shouldn't we expect a time travel series to start appearing before its release date?
    Nick McDonnell,

    Andy Elms should count himself lucky (Monitor letters, Thursday). Try being Anna Pruce in the modern world of predictive text.
    Bomb Squad, York

    Try typing any normal word using predictive typing.
    Derrick Mortimer, Northants

    For the ultimate in anoraking, how many people have noticed that the default tone for text messages beep-beep, beep-beep-beep, beep-beep is actually the Morse for SMS?
    John Airey, Peterborough, UK

    FRIDAY OBJECTIVE Friday 11 March 1345GMT

    Dyson's The Ball
    The Ball (with a motion blur trail)
    You objective for the afternoon...

    James Dyson, the man behind the revolutionary Dyson vacuum cleaner, is about to unveil his new invention, codenamed The Ball.

    Dyson is one of Britain's most high profile and celebrated inventors, thanks to the success of his revolutionary vacuum cleaner which uses some ingenious and heavily patented technology, to ensure it doesn't lose suction as it fills up with dirt.

    The Ball, which will be fully unveiled on Monday, has been shrouded in secrecy. All that's known for sure is that it's another sort of vacuum cleaner, although you wouldn't know it from the pictures released by Dyson (see above).

    So let your imagination run a little and, bearing in mind it is at heart a vacuum cleaner, tell us what revolutionary feature you would like to see in The Ball.

    Idea so far...

    To justify a cat's fascination with vacuum cleaners, i think the ball should contain "the hamster"
    Ibbi, uk

    No more emptying! Your household dust whizzes down a worm-hole to a nearby parallel universe! Optional door-step salesperson attachment!
    David Dee, Mozambique

    One that moves the furniture out the way, vacuums everywhere, puts all the furniture back in place and empties itself
    Andrew, UK

    Maybe it has the same technology as the ball Beckham used to take that penalty in Euro 2004. It will obviously be able to reach the furthest corners of your loft from your living room!
    pj, Barcelona

    I would like it to be impregnated with a pheromone that men find irresistible.
    Sarah, Swindon

    Having swept the carpets, go on to do the washing up, the laundry and dusting. Then prepare a three course dinner for two. Wait just a minute...a Ball?
    freda, London, UK

    As "the Ball" cleans, instead of the traditional, irritating whiring sound why not have it play "Another one bites the Dust"?
    Rhys Dafydd Jones, Cymru / Wales

    To bring jobs back in to England as opposed to Dyson's manufacturing process being outsourced overseas.
    Carl J , England

    The ability to separate lost contact lenses from the rest of the stuff it picks up
    Stephen Buxton, Coventry, UK

    Cordless, ruggedised and collapsible with automatic sensing for suction control. You could take it anywhere in the house, drop it down the stairs without harm, shove it underneath the bed and out the other side, as well as do the fringes of an oriental rug and bare flooring.
    Candace, New Jersey, US

    Dyson is obviously taking a leaf out of Dean "Segway" Kamen's book. You'll be able to stand on top of "The Ball" and ride it around your house as it vacuums.
    Neil Golightly, UK

    I'd like a sophisticated liposuction feature, which takes the fat from me, separates water from the fat, puts the water on my plants, and puts the fat in expensive-looking containers which can be sold to any motorist in need of grease and daft enough to buy them.
    Angela Gilroy, UK

    A tap in the side to get the beer out would be very handy.
    Richard, UK

    Hmmm, not sure but Winnie the Pooh might become a houseguest
    Michel, UK


    Thursday means it's time for the caption competition.

    This week it's Michael Davey, a plant manager at the McVitie's Product Development Lab in High Wycombe, feeding a biscuit to a motorised mannequin.

    Experts have invented a mannequin with a motorised mouth to test the amount of crumbs biscuits produce.


    6. Chris Pritchett, Bristol
    "Endless Hob-nobbing they told me"

    5. Norma Seal, Buffalo, New York, USA
    "Every time I try to get money out of thus thing, it just eats my card!"

    4. Jon, UK
    At the supermodel eating disorder clinic

    3.Hilary, UK
    Jamie's School Dinners: The Director's Cut

    2. Jeff Wutzke, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
    "Open wide and say 01000101001101110101"

    1. Bob Peters, Leeds
    "Eat it all up, or you won't grow up to be a big, strong publicity stunt"


    Friday is the 20th anniversary of the election of Mikhail Gorbachev as leader of the Soviet Communist Party.
    PAPER MONITOR: A new service, highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Great minds: Assorted Jackson headlines. Bananas in Pyjamas (Sun), Jacko's Wacko Race (Star), Better late than Neverland (Sun), Jim Jam Jacko (Mirror).
    Last Piers anecdote: Final choice morsel from Piers Morgan's autobiography, as reported by the Economist. "During a personal guided tour of Chequers, Mr Blair mischievously asks Mr Morgan if he can name the former prime ministers whose photographs line the walls. To his amazement, Mr Morgan can. Mr Morgan later confesses that he simply read the signatures."


    It's day two of our anti-book club, where we invite Magazine readers to nominate books other readers should definitely avoid. Submit your nominations using the form on the right of this page, and please give your reasons.

    I'd like to nominate (along with many friends who've read it) Long Way Round by Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman. Written for the Christmas market, it manages to be both too long and too short. That is, no real insight into the culture and diversity of the countries visited, and too much of how being paid to ride a motorcycle is more fun but just as arduous as acting, darling. Yes, you missed your families, yes it was hard work and you got cross with each other. How about something we can't assume from reading the brief of your journey? Still, if I had the chance...
    Steve Norris, Chandlers Ford, UK

    In Iain Banks' A Song Of Stone deeply unpleasant things happen to deeply unpleasant people. It's well written- the people are convincingly horrible as are the events that befall them but the net effect is a depression that encroaches around the first page and only deepens as the book prgresses.
    Ben Moxon, Guildford, Surrey

    Books to avoid: anything by Elizabeth George - apart from the fact that she's an American with a loose grasp on the British class system (working class people are so subservient they're virtually tugging forelocks) her characters fail to reach even one dimension and conversation is stilted; even Crossroads' scenery was more realistic. And the characters themselves? A lord of the realm who happens to be a top Scotland Yard detective, who sends forensic evidence to his best friend - a crippled toff who has his own laboratory at the top of his West End house - rather than to an official lab, and whose assistant is a grimy, gor-blimey commoner, Gov? It's like nails on a blackboard and less satisfying.
    Cat, London, UK

    Do not even consider reading Mard Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time". It's about as original as recycled paper; the tale as told from an autistic person has been done far more convincingly by others, with less resort to Keystone Kop style capers with the genius child avoiding capture at every turn.
    Andy Hewitt, London, UK

    I would like to nominate the Cosmic Trilogy by CS Lewis. Fortunately I borrowed it from my local library, rather than spending any money on it, as I got ten pages in and gave up. Amazing how someone who wrote so well in the "Narnia" series could get so long-winded in a book aimed at adults.
    Kate, Oxford, UK


    From today's Paper Monitor: "At one stage, during the tour, Benson went missing from the DC9 in which they were about to travel and was later found standing behind the plane's propeller drying his hair." Now that, I would liked to have seen. The DC-9 had two rear mounted jet engines and a distinct lack of propellors. Drying ones hair in a jet exhaust would certainly do the job, but it would also blow you and your coiffeur into the middle of the neighbouring country.
    Reece Walker,
    London UK

    According to the stamp-collector quoted by the Daily Mail (Paper Monitor, Wednesday), the Camilla and Charles Wedding stamps could be worth 10% less than their face value and it may be better to stick them on a letter instead. What a remarkably transparent attempt to make these stamps rare and thus more value in the future. I'll bet this collector will be keeping their set...
    Paul Gitsham,
    Manchester, UK

    Pete N only knows half the problem of predictive text (Monitor letters, Wednesday). With predictive text, my name comes up as body flop. Delightful.
    Andy Elms, Brizzle

    Try typing "Smirnoff" using predictive typing.
    Mark Esdale,
    Bridge, Canterbury

    Just thought I'd respond to the demographic question posed by Imogen Hitchcock (Monitor letters, Wednesday). I'm 18 and a university student, and I have little or no inclination to do any of my work.

    Re: Imogen Hitchcock's "grumpy old men/women" theory of Magazine readership. I am aged 25-50, still complain about everything, and read the Magazine while AT work. Now, if only I was hemaphrodite, I would neatly encapsulate all definitions.
    T C,

    Imogen Hitchcock asks whether the Magazine is read by the over 50's who remember the good ol' days, or read by 25-50 year olds who have little or no inclination to do any work. Since she is in the second category, and I'm in the first, both are true.
    Nigel Goodman,

    Or is it read by 18-year-olds waiting for lectures whose comments don't get published?

    I was interested to read the article about dissent in China (China's intolerance of dissent, 7 March). House arrest? Not allowed to use phone? Sound familiar?
    Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

    What with London proposing beach volleyball on Horse Guards Parade, and Paris proposing it under the Eiffel Tower, what's the chances of Olympic beach volleyball ever taking place on a beach again?
    John Airey,
    Peterborough, UK

    I liked the illustration you used for A brief history of Habeas Corpus - nice to see that Supertramp haven't been entirely forgotten.
    London, UK

    Perhaps one of your Anti-Book Club readers could shed light on the actual meaning of the phrase 'Number One International Bestseller'. It seems to adorn the cover of every trashy novel in newsagents and airports, to the point of meaninglessness. I have always wondered, do books have to qualify for this or is it a completely meaningless sales gimmick? Meanwhile, I will continue to view it as a useful warning of particularly bland writing.
    Ian Ferguson,
    Southampton, UK

    "The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites." There are OTHER websites?
    Mike Hobbins,
    Fort Collins, CO, USA (ex-pat Brit)


    Thursday is the 965th anniversary of the death of Harold I, who was king of England between 1035 and 1040. He was King Canute's eldest son. He died during preparations to repel an invasion by his legitimate half-brother, Hardecnut, King of Denmark.
    PAPER MONITOR: A new service, highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Gold dust: This from the Telegraph obituary of Fleet Street writer Ross Benson, a man known for being "immaculately dressed and fastidiously groomed", who died on Tuesday.
    Bob Geldof told a vintage Benson story from the occasion when, in the 1980s, he took a party of journalists to Ethiopia to witness the Live Aid famine relief efforts. At one stage, during the tour, Benson went missing from the DC9 in which they were about to travel and was later found standing behind the plane's propeller drying his hair.
    For full obituary, see internet links.


    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, it's the news that the new Doctor Who series has been pirated and released on the internet. The leak involved one 45-minute episode called Rose, which is the name of the Doctor's assistant played by pop singer Billie Piper (pictured with the Doctor, Christopher Eccleston).

    The BBC is investigating the leak.


    Jonathan Glossop was the first of many to think up Who dunnit? And likewise there was plenty of interest in Dr WWWho, but not before Jacquie in the UK.

    A little cleverer was Who Doctored Who? by Cameron Smith, Who Dares Windows by Brian Gunn in Oman, and Simon Goodwin's Who Shares Wins.

    Others who thought more outside the (phone) box included Carrie in, appropriately, Cardiff, with Da-leak threatens Dr Who. Ian King is commended for Crime traveller! and we also liked "Misappropriate! Duplicate! Circulate!" Dr Who's return ruined by web Cybermen, by Mark Willingham in England.

    New Who duo blue due to who blew new Who debut deserves a special mention for Terry Adlam.

    But the intergalactic winner was Tim Francis-Wright in Boston, US, for Let's View the Time Lord Again.


    Helen Dunn asks whether Morse or text is more effecient in terms of keystrokes (Monitor letters, Tuesday. To tap "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" in Morse requires 104 strokes, but only 85 (including spaces) in text. Now where did I leave my anorak...
    Barrie Young,
    Burnham On Crouch, Essex

    A quick search of BBC News Online revealed this article: How text messages changed my life, 9 May 2004, which states that James Trussler texted: "The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human." in 67 seconds. This website - Roger Wendell's Morse code page gives the record morse code speed at being 75.2 words per minute. Given that the sentence above contains 26 words only, tranmission in morse would take a mere 20.7 seconds. The old ways are the best.
    Ged Shaw,
    Rotherham, UK

    (BBC not responsible for external sites)

    The average number of key presses per letter in Morse code needs is 3.15 while texting uses an average of 2.15 key presses. This is a reduction of 69% over Morse code. This assumes that every letter occurs with the same frequency. However if we take into account the frequency of use of each letter, texting now requires 84% less keystrokes than Morse. But given that texting uses 8 keys and Morse uses one, you would expect texting to take fewer keys. And if the phone keyboard had been designed for texting it could use considerably less keystrokes.
    Alan Addison,
    Glasgow, Scotland

    With tie benefit me predictive text, it's probably sticker to text.
    Pete N, (Sent via text)

    You're not fooling me. That's not a "biscuit-munching mannequin" (Biscuit-eating dummy tests crumbs). I know an Auton when I see one.
    Lauren Silverwolf,
    Swindon, UK

    (BBC not responsible for external websites)

    If I miss a programme on BBC One or Two, and I then download it from the internet, exactly what copyright law have I broken? It would be wrong to suggest that I'd received goods that I hadn't paid for, as I own both a TV and a TV licence. What if I downloaded the new Doctor Who episode because I knew I was going to be away on holiday, and I couldn't record it as retailers have stopped selling VCRs? I've still paid my money for the show, why can't I download it?

    It seems to me that the Magazine readers epitomise the adage "grumpy old men" (and I suppose women) since they always seem to complain about everything. The Anti-Book club; The Anti-natch club; The "where's the LBQ gone?" club. However, since I am a 22 year old female, I clearly don't fall into this category. I would be interested to see what the demographic of the readership of the Magazine is. Is it, in fact, read by the over 50's who remember the good ol' days or is it, as I suspect, read by 25-50 year olds who have little or no inclination to do any work?
    Imogen Hitchcock,

    Regarding identity theft, using those who know someone who's had it happen to them is a spurious use of statistics. 100% of people know someone who has been pregnant, but only around half of us are even remotely likely to be in the same condition.
    Ken Strong, Hornchurch, Essex


    Yesterday we launched the Anti-book club - an antidote to all sorts of recommendations for books you find elsewhere in the media. The Anti-book club is after your recommendations of books not to read. Send your reviews using the form on the right - and please give your reasons for your dislike.

    This is one of those classic cases where the most favourite book can also be one of the worst. The Da Vinci Code has an intriging central idea, however Dan Brown is one of the worst writers I have ever read. Terrible characterisation, weak plot and transparent twists. Oh, and did I mention that it's based on the make-believe world of a mad Frenchman, and NOT facts, as stated in its foreword. Apart from that I enjoyed it.
    Erol Fehim, London

    Dan Clapton should think himself lucky that he only had 270 pages of garbage to plough through. I've just finished more than 600 pages of Tom Clancy's Teeth of the Tiger, which I was seduced into buying because of the words 'international bestseller' on the cover. This really is utter drivel, there is no character development, the plot is totally one dimensional, and had I not been stuck on a lengthy train journey across France, I would have ditched it after the first few pages.
    Steve, London

    This might be contentious but I nominate The Mill on the Floss. I had to read it for A level, and is unbelivably long winded. The plot would fill about 10 minutes of Eastenders. The same goes for Jane Eyre, the only book I have ever brought myself to skip a chunk of. This is slightly better though, about one episode of Eastenders.
    Sasha, Edinburgh

    The Seville Communion by Perez Reverte - I have been a fan of Perez Reverte for some time he is usually a good Spanish thriller writer which is why I was so dismayed to discover that this story is such a good cure for insomnia. No quick plot, no engaging riddles for the reader to engage in, but primarily it is peppered with central characters that you couldn't care less about. Avoid por favour.
    Miguel Darmola, Nottingham

    Could I nominate Cocaine Nights? To call the characters cardboard would be to give them a three-dimensionality they don't possess.
    Catherine Stevenson, Cambridge, UK

    David Eddings - The Treasured One. Avoid at all costs, even if you like Eddings books and even enjoyed the first one in the series. It's repetitive, having each character summarise their plot line from the first book, involves no real peril to characters, who will of course win because they can make witty comments and enjoy a happy mutual appreciation society despite they oh so amusing differences. The only positive is that it isn't as bad as the DVC.
    Helen, London, UK

    Avoid London Orbital by Ian Sinclair. It's a look at suburban greater London by walking round sort-of-near the M25. Hippyish and metro-cynical at the same time, it's full of "observations" such as: the suburbs are full of boxy housing estates, starter homes and tin DIY warehouses! Whouldathoughtit?? Under a m-way bridge by an urban stream isn't the prettiest part of north London! Well I never! It's also very heavy reading; I suppose the recommendation by Will Self on the front cover should have warned me. I got half-way through, then despatched it to the charity shop.
    Ken Strong, Hornchurch, Essex

    Many of James Herbert's later novels are not really worth investing in, but 'Once' is to be avoided at all costs. Every other chapter has graphic descriptions of extremely non-erotic sex, and the one plot device that almost works is lazily used twice. Terrible waste of trees.
    Dave Godfrey, Swindon

    I read several of the books from the 'Big Read' list last year, and it was a toss up for worst book between Jeffrey Archer's 'Kane and Abel' and Ken Follett's 'The Pillars of the Earth'. Both had cardboard cut-out characters, inane dialogue and some of the most cringeworthy descriptions of sex I've ever read.
    Hilary, Brighton

    The Gormanghast trilogy. It's the most incomprehensible, mind destroying books ever and the only one I've never finished. While the characterisation is spot on, the characters themselves and unutterably dull.
    Rob Waring, London

    Amsterdam by Ian McEwan is the only work of fiction I have started to read and failed to finish in the last 15 years. I assume that its mind-numbingness was what endeared it to the Booker prize judges.
    Jeff, Halesowen, UK

    The worst book I've ever read has to be Edwina Curry's 'This Honourable House'. Aside from the plot (not so much cliche-ridden, but cliche built), she clearly thinks its awfully clever to base then on 'real' people (e.g. there's a brash publicist called Clifford Maxwell - fancy that!). In fact, its just awful
    Steffan John, Cardiff, Wales


    Wednesday is the 70th anniversary of Porky Pig's big screen debut
    PAPER MONITOR: A new service, highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Royal Wedding Watch: Charles' and Camilla's fortunes are as muddled as ever. While the registrar general's decision to dismiss official objections to the impending royal marriage is widely noted, the Times notes how audiences at the premiere in Manchester of the ballet Diana, the Princess, booed the dancers playing the Prince and Ms Parker Bowles off-stage. Meanwhile, the official stamps to commemorate the couple's nuptials received a cool reception in some quarters. The Daily Mail quotes a philatelist who suggests they could be worth 10% less than their face value if kept. "It may be better to stick them on a letter instead," he says.


    Our guide to words behind the headlines, including new words, old words, old words in new contexts, ordinary words obscuring real meanings, and matters of linguistic interest.

    Decapitation strategy - previously a tactic applied by the US forces to the leaders of the Ba'ath party, including Saddam Hussein. Now allegedly being employed by Liberal Democrat strategists who are targeting the leading figures in the Conservative Party who hold seats which the Lib Dems believe are winnable. Michael Howard's Folkestone and Hythe seat is reportedly top of the party's targets

    Masochism strategy - tactic allegedly being employed by Tony Blair, to be exposed to as many members of the public as possible with the attendant risk of being barracked, in order to emphasise an image of accountability

    MSM - abbrev for "mainstream media", as used in blogosphere

    NIONists - people who maintain the Iraq war was "Not In Our Name"

    Robinson Crusoe Job - is any task that has to be completed by Friday. Its corollary, the Robinson Crusoe Week is when everything has to be done by Friday (submitted by reader Alan, London)

    Starbuckisation - the process by which independent cafés find competition getting harder; phrase used in relation to the Grade 2 listing given to Pellicci's café in Bethnal Green, once popular with the Kray twins

    As ever, suggestions for inclusion are welcome, via the form on the right hand side.


    Magazine reader Dan Clapton writes:

    I was a bit disappointed with the Magazine's poll of readers' favourite books for World Book Day (Your top books revealed, 3 March) - what a shame that the Da Vinci Code came out on top. Could we not start the Monitor's Anti-Book Club, in which we can make suggestions of really bad books that other Monitor readers should definitely avoid? Can I start proceedings with nominating Baggage by Janet Street- Porter? I really hated this book. 270 pages of double-line, double-space nonsense which could be read in an afternoon and could easily fit on the back of a cereal box.

    This seems like not a bad idea. So readers are hereby invited to send reviews of other books they would like to not recommend. Please make sure you show your working. Use the form on the right.


    You report that London Transport is going to give badges to pregnant women so that other passenger may be more willing to give up their seats (Baby badge for pregnant commuters, 7 March). The report concludes that "if the trial proves popular, badges will be given to all pregnant Tube users". I'm just curious to know how many pregnant Tube users are NOT women.
    Kevin Luff,
    Douglas, Isle of Man

    I was watching an excellent interview with Lord Deedes on BBC Four last night. It was fascinating, but as there was some footage of people from his younger days sending Morse code messages, my boyfriend got a bit bored and started texting his mates. Though I was trying to concentrate on the noble lord's musings of eight decades near the centre of events, I couldn't help wondering if it would be more efficient (in pure number of keystrokes) to send a message by text or by Morse code. Of course, I could have probably worked it out quicker than it took to write this note to the Monitor, but that wouldn't have been nearly so satisfying.
    Helen Dunn,

    In your article Serb general surrenders to Hague, 7 March, you state that: "Mr Perisic is the sixth former top Serbian military leader in five months to announce that he will hand himself over to the international tribunal." Will he be taking his A-levels first?
    Spike Reid,
    Newcastle upon Tyne,

    I notice in your initial report on the leaked Dr Who episode (New Dr Who leaked on to internet, 7 March)that "The BBC was unavailable for comment". Have you gone into a timewarp with yourself? Or just into another dimension?

    RE: Ad Breakdown: That's me singin' in the rain, 4 March, It's like jiggling a corpse.
    Jill Grant,

    Perhaps the mystery of the Queen having sent an e-mail in 1976 despite never having used a computer (Monitor Letters, Monday) can be explained as one of the earliest known incidences of identity theft?
    New Jersey, US


    Douglas Hurd is 75 on Tuesday. Mickey Dolenz, on the other hand, is a sprightly 60
    PAPER MONITOR: A new service, highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Great minds: The parliamentary sketch-writers try to outdo each other's prose in describing Lord Falconer's troubles in the House of Lords.
    Charlie Falconer got kicked around the room, and that was worth the price of admission. He bounces pretty well. But then he's inflated very high.
    (Simon Carr, Independent)

    The Lord Chancellor, looking chirpy in his penguin outfit, was magnificent. Arms rotating madly and wig bag bouncing up and down against his back, he tried to acknowledge everyone seeking to interrupt him. But he was no match for the Upper House.
    (Ann Treneman, Times)

    By teatime the Lord Chancellor bore a strong resemblance to a teddy bear lying face down in the mud with the stuffing knocked out of him.
    (Andrew Gimson, Telegraph)

    In an effort to appear congenial and open to argument, he twirled around and waved his arms, which, combined with his frock coat, white collar tabs, and a rosette on the back of his collar, gave him the appearance of a band leader striking up In The Mood.
    (Simon Hoggart, Guardian)

    Lord Falconer tried his best. He swivelled on the soles of his court shoes and clenched a podgy fist to show how ardently he now believed in the details of the anti-terrorism Bill. But it was too little, too late.
    (Quentin Letts, Daily Mail)


    You report in 10 things that the Queen told Bill Gates she had never used a computer. It's strange, then, that so many "histories of the internet" (such as History and development of the internet) record her sending an e-mail back in 1976.
    Ed Loach,
    Clacton, UK

    (The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.)

    One of the 10 Things states that: "One person in four has had their identity stolen or knows someone who has". How do we know that the person they know that says that they have had their identity stolen is the actual person who has had their identity stolen, or is in fact, the person pretending to be the person stating they have had their identity stolen?
    Mal Walker,
    Adelaide, Australia

    Re: the article about the "=" sign (10 things), in which you report that the creator of the sign explained "noe 2 thynges can be moare equalle". Great mathematician, lousy at spelling.
    Guildford, UK

    You report: "There was much talk this weekend about what will happen to the campaign when Mrs Kennedy goes into labour" (in Kennedy's difficult balancing act, 6 March). Gosh, Tony Blair will be happy!
    Cambridge, UK

    Re: New bands answer to tax reforms, 5 March. I hope Tony isn't looking to resuscitate his old career?


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

    Poetry in Motion

    I had a moving thought one day
    Oscillating and meandering throughout my grey
    Matter, it edged a careful path
    Through nodding head and knowing laugh
    It travelled an undulating course
    Until it marched far from its source

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    The answer to last week's riddle was that each word could drop a letter to spell out a new word. The new words are: exert by stayed string baking selves pond cared manly paring miser closet

    The letters removed spell out parachutists, which was spotted by Nickie O, of Blackburn, Lancashire.

    Si is a contributor to the Puzzletome website.


    Ivan Lendl is 45 on Monday. Maurice Ravel, who gave the world Bolero, would have been 130
    PAPER MONITOR: A new service, highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Burning issue from today's papers: Q: So... Javine, Jordan, Eurovision... Thank goodness for good old "wardrobe malfunctions" eh?
    A: Sure thing! It's what makes life great.

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