What do you feed an elephant?

What do you give a king–who already has everything–as a present?
Let’s give him an elephant!

What do you feed an elephant?
A bit of grass will do.

And what does an elephant drink?
You couldn’t give it water. Not back in the old days, it would have gotten sick.
You couldn’t give it beer, either. Obviously, you can’t give beer to an elephant. That would be silly.
Let’s give it wine instead.

… The elephant didn’t last very long.

(From the Yeoman Warder tour at the Tower of London, from memory.)


Some of the other animals held at the Tower didn’t fare much better, either. An ostrich died after being fed nails, because people believed they’d eat iron. And the polar bear probably didn’t quite enjoy fishing in the dirty Thames either. Apparently, the Tower was home to the Royal Beasts for over 600 years, until the London Zoo opened in 1826.

Profile of the Imperial State Crown from the right, the crown's left (Wikipedia)

Imperial State Crown (Wikipedia)

Of course, you also get to hear all the gruesome execution stories during the The Yeoman Warder tour. For example, there was mention of those three bishops burnt at the stake in Oxford, one of whom supposedly haunts Broad Street each year at midnight on the 26 October. The tour alone is absolutely worth a visit at the Tower. And once you’re there, you could also have a look at the crown jewels. Although to be honest, I was expecting some more … well, jewellery that’s not a crown. Something to dream about and be jealous of.

What else should I not miss in London, Oxford or the rest of the UK?

Don’t be scared

Found yesterday via WordPress’ Freshly Pressed:

3. Back up your work. […]

10. Don’t be scared. So many people have a guttural fear of technology—a fear of doing something wrong and messing up the whole computer or phone in the process. The truth is that it’s pretty hard to do anything that would permanently damage a computer or phone. Don’t be afraid to play around with things, make mistakes, and then figure out how to fix them. That’s how you learn. […]

Check out and follow all Pam’s “Top 10 Things I’ve Learned from Living with a Nerd”!

Routine and Resolutions


Happy 2012!

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. Why should the calendar decide when I’m supposed to improve my life in some way or another? However, once I was back from the holidays, ready to dig into work again, I thought about what I wanted to change. Along the lines of “life practice” that I recently read about. There are two things, I am trying to add to my routine: regular exercise and practicing the flute.

In 2010, I did manage for a few weeks to get up really early in the morning to go rowing even before breakfast. The reasons this ever worked for me were strong peer pressure (7 other rowers, cox and coach would not be happy if you were late) and knowing that this would be over in just a few weeks after Summer Eights. When I’m on my own, the nice, warm, cuddly bed is irresistible compared to going outside for a run.

Makro shot of a flute in it's case

I also picked up the flute again a few months ago, after years of not having practiced at all. My dear, did that sound horrible at first. Luckily, my college has this nicely sound isolated music room that all students can use, so my neighbours don’t hate me. On the other hand, that means I can only practice when the music room is free. If I remember correctly, there’s about 700 students in my college …

The solution was to swap exercise and flute practice. I get up a bit earlier in the morning to practice the flute. Nobody else ever wanted to use the music room at that time. It makes me happy because it’s fun and I already have something accomplished before breakfast. A perfect start of the day! In the evening, I do at least some small exercise as soon as I get back from the office. I wouldn’t want to do anything that involves thinking anyway. So far this routine is working well for me. Unfortunately the early flute practice likely won’t be sustainable when I leave college.

What do or would you get out of bed for just a little earlier?