kottke.org posts about UK
Of the current 200 nations in the world, the British have invaded all but 22 of them. The lucky 22 include Sweden, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Bolivia, and Belarus. The full analysis is available in Laycock's book, All the Countries We've Ever Invaded.
Stuart Laycock, the author, has worked his way around the globe, through each country alphabetically, researching its history to establish whether, at any point, they have experienced an incursion by Britain.
Only a comparatively small proportion of the total in Mr Laycock's list of invaded states actually formed an official part of the empire.
The remainder have been included because the British were found to have achieved some sort of military presence in the territory -- however transitory -- either through force, the threat of force, negotiation or payment.
Incursions by British pirates, privateers or armed explorers have also been included, provided they were operating with the approval of their government.
The US currently has military personnel stationed in all but 43 countries.
For instance, as of Sept. 30, 2011, there were 53,766 military personnel in Germany, 39,222 in Japan, 10,801 in Italy and 9,382 in the United Kingdom. That makes sense. But wait, scanning the list, you also see nine troops in Mali, eight in Barbados, seven in Laos, six in Lithuania, five in Lebanon, four in Moldova, three in Mongolia, two in Suriname and one in Gabon.
But the presence in most of those countries is due to diplomatic usage of military personnel. (thx, aaron)
Unless you're from the UK (or watched Spitting Image and all sorts of other British comedies on PBS as an impressionable youth in Wisconsin), the observations of Parliamentary sketchwriter Simon Hoggart about the prime ministers he has covered might be too inside baseball, but I couldn't help sharing this Thatcher anecdote about her unwitting skill with double entendre:
But Thatcher saved the best of all for her victory tour of the Falkland Islands. She was taken to inspect a large field gun, basically a ride-on lawnmower with a barrel several feet long. It was on a bluff, overlooking a plain on which another Argentine invasion might one day materialise. She admired the weapon, and the soldier manning it asked if she would like to fire a round.
"But mightn't it jerk me off?" she replied. Chris Moncrieff of the Press Association, who was covering the visit, recorded the manful struggle of the soldier to keep his face, indeed his whole body, straight.
Actually, all the Thatcher stories are quite good. (thx, tom)
This summer's dry English weather has been unexpectantly good for archaeology. Aerial surveys over dry cropland has revealed the outlines of several prehistoric and Roman ruins.
The surveys show marks made when crops growing over buried features develop at a different rate from those nearby.
Photos here. (via clusterflock)
A couple in London have found the ultimate space-saving solution for a city-dwelling book lover: a staircase bookshelf. UK-based Levitate Architects came up with the page-turning passage as a unique way to augment a loft sleeping space in the attic with discreet storage. If they could create a record crate bathroom, I'd be ready to move in.
The musician Tricky talks about Englishness in this interview.
We've always been violent, but now it's stupidity, people kicking heads in for no reason. When I was a kid we used to fight or rob the people we wanted to fight or rob, we didn't walk along the street, kick someone's head in, and film it on a mobile phone. Now you've got a guy stood at the bus stop, minding his own business, and eight guys jump him and beat the fuck out of him, or stab him to fuck for no reason. It's like these video games, you can go on a video game, shoot someone twenty times and they get back up again. I don't want to sound like an old man, but when I was growing up we had films like Get Carter and Scarface. Scarface was one of the best gangster films ever. But those films were more about the threat of violence that makes it a violent. Now people use violence as a marketing tool, that's the problem we're having right now.
Tricky also rightly defends English food; I've never had anything bad to eat there, at least in London.
How big is England? Mapmakers can't seem to agree.
So for the last two years I've been taking pictures of Britain on world maps. Not accurate maps, but drawings or illustrations of maps. The differences are amazing. You might assume that all maps were accurate, or at least accurate-ish. But no, designers play fast and loose with the truth making the host country bigger, more important or more central. Look at Britain in these photos. Look at the size of it compared to Europe. It's the same, but different.
I love the averaged England near the bottom of the post. (via migurski)
Interview with Matthew Dent, the chap who designed the fantastic new UK coinage.
There were plenty of technical issues I had to come to terms with in conjunction with the distribution of metal across the coin and the high-speed striking process. At one point I considered suggesting that half the 20 pence's border -- where it met the shield -- be removed. It would have still been a rounded heptagon, only its border wouldn't completely surround the coin. There were potential issues with this; I learnt that the distribution of metal wouldn't be balanced, thereby possibly affecting the striking of the coins and the acceptance of them by cash machines. Oh well... this competition was a learning curve. And as someone who was unfamiliar with the technical aspects of coin manufacture - you have to ask don't you?
The new design for UK coinage is fantastic.
As you can see in the image to the right, the Shield of the Royal Arms has been given a contemporary treatment and its whole has been cleverly split among all six denominations from the 1p to the 50p, with the £1 coin displaying the heraldic element in its entirety. This is the first time that a single design has been used across a range of United Kingdom coins.
This is my favorite bit of design so far this year. (via we made this)
Update: Jonathan Hoefler compares the new UK coins, designed by a first-time currency designer, to the new US five dollar bill.
Below, the new five dollar bill, introduced last month by the United States Department of the Treasury. The new design, which features a big purple Helvetica five, is the work of a 147-year-old government agency called the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It employs 2,500 people, and has an annual budget of $525,000,000.
It looks like Purple Modernistan is invading the US from the southeast.
It's worth sitting through the first several minutes of this documentary on the speech patterns of Edwardian-era Britons to hear Joan Washington, the host and an accent expert, speak with several different British accents.
The line of succession to the British Throne, which has on it 1286 members. AKA, the thing you should show someone should they ask you the definition of "thorough".
Photos from a meal at L'Enclume in the UK, where chef Simon Rogan is practicing molecular gastronomy at a high level. "I don't think there's a more exciting meal than this anywhere in the whole world, even [at El Bulli]. This was 24 flawless brilliant courses by a chef who is not just 'at the top of his game', but somewhere out in front of his rivals." More photos and information at L'Enclume's web site.
The Fat Duck, one of molecular gastronomy's main outposts, recently offered a course complete with its own soundtrack served up on iPods shuffle. "Heston Blumenthal, the chef, said he wanted to experiment with using sound to enhance a dining experience. Hence the iPod, playing the soothing sound of the sea breeze and waves gently caressing the seashore."
The British government is installing talking CCTV cameras in public places...the control center staff will be able to yell at people they see on the camera to stop littering and the like. "Smith! 6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You're not trying. Lower, please! That's better, comrade."
Former bitter rivals in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionists and former IRA leaders, are set to form a government coalition to work together on increasing the region's economic growth. "After decades spent fighting each other to the death, these two movements will now share power, spending the next year or two arguing about school admissions and local water rates. Their long war is over." (thx, elaine)
When the UK gambling industry is deregulated next year, it will be legal for gamblers to use a tiny device to cheat at roulette. The device works by listening to the wheel and how the ball bounces to predict roughly where the ball will land, reducing the odds from 1 in 38 to something a bit more manageable. (via spurgeonblog)
We've arrived safely in Vietnam. Saigon is by far the most European stop on our trip, which makes sense because Thailand was never colonized by a European power and Hong Kong was British and therefore not European. There are cafes, French restaurants, European architecture, public spaces like squares and parks, etc. It feels like Europe here.
And there are a lot of dongs here. The Vietnamese currency is the dong. Our hotel is just off of Dong Khoi. I've seen several restaurants and shops with "Dong" in the name. Beavis and Butthead would love it here; I myself have been making culturally insensitive jokes pertaining to the currency and my pants pocket all afternoon.
 The only SE Asian country never to have been so colonized.
 Hello, angry Brits! Of course you're European, but you know what I mean. For starters, you've got your own breakfast, as opposed to the continental.
 The 50,000 & 100,000 dong notes are plastic and see-through in a couple spots. US currency is so not cool.
The memoirs of Winston Churchill's bodyguard have been recently discovered. "Why, Thompson, did they allow the president [FDR], almost dying on his feet, to be there? All Europe will suffer from the decisions made at Yalta."
The origins and common usage of British swear words. "Both Oxford and London boasted districts called 'Gropecunte Lane', in reference to the prostitutes that worked there. The Oxford lane was later renamed the slightly less-contentious Magpie Lane, while London's version retained a sense of euphemism when it was changed to 'Threadneedle Street'. Records do not show whether it was a decision of intentional irony that eventually placed the Bank of England there."
A series of explosions in London this morning during rush hour; at least 2 dead and 160 wounded. The explosions were coordinated and officials have shut down the tube and central bus service.
Google Maps launches in the UK with London Tube stations right on the map. Google, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please do the same for the NYC subway. Please?