How many did you get right? Everyone's a virtual winner!
Ancient Damascus steel
A castrated ram
(of an old person) Thin; sharp; withered
A summer outing or dinner provided by a printing house for the workers
A purple-faced monkey from Sri Lanka
Kangaroo; Wallaroo; Wallaby. The middle-sized of the three
An obsolete Russian measurement of distance just over 1km
A herbaceous plant with magical and medicinal powers
A lawsuit for recovery of damages from wrongful taking of personal property
A swimming stroke like the crawl with scissors movement of the legs
A hole saw used in surgery for removing a circle of tissue or bone
Hand-painted wooden peg dolls
A bright spot in the sky appearing on either side of the sun
The former parliament of Denmark
One of my interests is etymology - the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history. So here is a short word quiz. See how many of these you know. Give yourself 2 points if you know the correct meanings without using Mr Google and 1 point if you can find the correct meanings using Google or a Dictionary. Answers on Tuesday. First prize - a virtual glass of wine!
I am not sure I necessarily fully subscribe to the doom mongers' claims that we only have a few years left before the planet succumbs to global warming and we all go to hell in a handcart. I accept that there is a lot we can do in our own country to reduce waste and harmful emissions but the UK's contribution to global warming must be miniscule compared with the big polluters like China, India, Russia and so on.
However, it is not my intention here to start a debate about climate change or to denigrate those who passionately believe in man's destruction of the planet and are prepared to glue themselves to railings in protest. We are all entitled to our views however extremely we might express them.
What I do want to do, however, is to return to a topic I wrote previously about last November and which continues to get me "steamed up". This is the horrendous amount of printed paper waste from all the leaflets, adverts and so on that pour through the letterbox and burst out of the plastic wrappings that papers and magazines come in (not to mention that plastic itself). Last time I wrote, I did a rough calculation of the amount of excess paper generated nationwide by weekly circulations of the Radio Times, based on the weight of one weekly edition's supplements and adverts in our house. I came up with a figure of 250 tons of excess paper from this one magazine alone. How many forests are being destroyed to make all this paper?
I am sure it is getting worse lately. Not only are magazines stuffed full of rubbish but the poor old postman is now obliged to feed it through our letterbox. On days when we have no other actual post he/she is still required to use up fuel and footwear delivering to houses that would otherwise be bypassed.
Maybe our charities, advertisers and other proliferators of such waste could do their bit towards improving things. Screams of protest about affecting their income from sales or donations but I am sorry; it's a question of priorities.
On 16th February I posted a blog item called 'They've got you covered'. This described an innovative new addressing system called 'what3words' which enabled any 3x3 metre square anywhere in the world to have its own unique address by using three words. You can test this out for yourself by going to their website what3words.com/ and clicking on "Explore the map site". Each square has been allocated a set of three words chosen randomly from a dictionary of 40,000 words. The three words are separated by a dot.
I got to thinking about the perennial problem of creating secure passwords for internet sites - especially for older folk with difficulty remembering the complex set of letters and numbers that many sites are now insisting that you use. You will have seen how, trying to register on a new site, you are informed that your password is too weak, does not contain enough characters or does not contain a mix of upper case, lower case, numbers or other squiggles. This is why so many people I come across have passwords that (though they might conform to some of the rules) nevertheless are easy to "crack" eg Rover123. Worse still is the repeated use of the same password for different sites.
The Government-sponsored National Cyber Security Centre has been advising home users that using three random words provides a secure password that is both easy to remember and very hard to crack - even using powerful computers. Read the article on this at
It doesn't matter what the words are and you can choose three that are relevant to you. Don't be tempted to use the names of family, pets or your house. It is surprising how easily these can be discovered by criminals and this vastly reduces the number of words that a hacker has to work through. Also avoid words of less than 4 characters if possible since these tend to be commonly used words; but you can make the words as long as you like. When you choose your 3 words make sure, when you type them in, that there are no spaces between the words (space is not permitted in any password); however, you can use punctuation marks like full stops if you wish. Indeed, if you make sure that one or more of your words begins with an upper case letter and make the punctuation mark something like an asterisk, @ sign, £ sign or a number, then you will satisfy all but the most pernickety of web sites. Here is an example:
A password constructed like this will be highly secure since the possible combinations of words will run into trillions and will take many years for even the most powerful of computers to "crack".
Of course we are still left with the problem of remembering these passwords - especially if people have quite a lot of sites they visit and want to adhere to the good advice not to have the same password for different sites. So how can we devise a simple system that uses the three random words principle whilst helping failing memories? Here is one suggestion:
First of all write down in a single column 24 of the 26 letters of the alphabet but leave out X and Z (because there are far fewer words beginning with these letters). Then, against each letter, think up a word starting with that letter. Use a dictionary if you wish. You will then have a page looking something like this:
...and so on down to
When you want a new password pick three words from your list and insert a punctuation character between the first and the second and a number between the second and the third (see my example up above).
Now, on a separate piece of paper, write down the web site title (forget the www and the .com). Thus you might write 'Amazon'. Against this write down the first letter of each of the 3 words you have chosen interspersed by a punctuation character and number. Trying to use a different character and number for each password and vary the letter that you put in upper case. So, if I do this for my example above I would write Amazon F&c9p
Note that this is only a clue to your password; it is not the actual password but you can then write down this list of all your password clues and even put it by your computer and NOBODY would be able to guess the actual password. Important. Put the page with 24 words on it safely away in a hidden place and refer to it when you need a reminder. You will probably find that, after a while, you will easily be able to remember what word you selected for each letter.