Steed's Miscellany: Part Two



Quirky information and random trivia with a tip of the hat to Ben Schott. All in no logical order. (Not entirely suitable for children or Presbyterians)




By Nicholas Steed


Pub quiz - war history: Who was the highest-scoring submarine commander in the Austrian navy in World War One? Answer: Georg von Trapp, the patriarch of the cloying singing family.


Sunday School propaganda - The Scot David Livingstone (1813-1873) was held out to generations of Sunday School children as "Africa's greatest missionary." In fact he is recorded as having converted only one African: Sechele, the chief of the Kwena people of Botswana. Once Livingstone left, Sechele is reported to have renounced Christianity and reverted to his previous heathen beliefs.


Another myth debunked: Uri Geller as a psychic. In fact he is a magician and a trickster. This was proved many times by the Canadian-born magician, The Amazing Randi, 1928-2020, born James Zwinge in Toronto. Excellent documentary on Randi on Amazon Prime called An Honest Liar.


Travel heresies, been there done that: The English poet Philip Larkin said he wouldn't mind going to China if he could go and return the same day. Oscar Wilde called Niagara Falls - a popular honeymoon destination at the time - the second greatest disappointment of American life. The great Dr.Johnson said the Giant's Causeway, an attraction in Scotland, was "worth seeing but not worth going to see."

Over-crowded travel favorites perhaps worth seeing but not worth going to see: Trevi Fountain, Rome; Sistine Chapel, Vatican; Loch Ness, Scotland; Red Light District, Amsterdam; Stonehenge, England; Moulin Rouge show, Paris; Tokyo Disneyland; the Blarney Stone, Ireland; Cairo, Egypt; Las Vegas, Nevada; Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy.


Royal sex: Edward, Prince of Wales - later King Edward Vll - told his mistress the actress Lillie Langtry " My dear, I've spent enough on you to buy a battleship." The quick-witted Langtry reportedly replied "And you, Sir, have spent enough inside me to float one."


More Royal sex: Royals who have owned up to illegitimate children include Prince Albert of Monaco, King Albert ll of Belgium and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. Over the centuries, British royal families have spawned too many illegitimate children to count. King William lV (1830-37) alone had ten illegitimate children with his mistress the actress Dorothea Bland.


Seven disturbing facts about investing:


1. Stockbrokers who advise clients to stay even partly in cash get fired by their firms.


2. During the downturn of 2020, 35% of people over 65 were estimated to have panic-sold between March and May.


3. The dead outperform the living in investing. They can’t panic by definition.


4. The average British or American person only has about $10,000 invested for retirement and most don’t have a workable alternative such as a passive income-generating source.


5. There has never been a strong correlation between the stock market and the economy. These days the correlation is even weaker. Stocks can do well during recessions, or badly during good economic times.


6. About 80% of the stock market is now automated.


7. On average a stock market correction happens every two years. So, falls of 10 per cent-20 per cent or above are normal. There have been countless 35 per cent-50 per cent corrections since 1941.


8. The Chinese Stock Market has halved in value since 2006. During the same time, the S&P 500 has gone up by 200 per cent and the Nasdaq about 500 per cent. This once again shows that growth and markets aren’t always linked.


Thanks to Adam Fayed whose website has additional investing wisdom.


Five epic fails by famous economists:


1. Irving Fisher predicted a stock market boom—right before the crash of 1929. Irving Fisher was one of the great economists of the first half of the 20th century. Days before the Great Crash of 1929. Fisher said that “stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau... I expect to see the stock market a good deal higher within a few months."

2. The 1990s Great Depression that never happened. Economist Ravi Batra reached number one on The New York Times Best Seller List in 1987 thanks to his book The Great Depression of 1990. In fact, the 1990s was a period of relative stability and strong economic growth, with the US stock market growing at an 18 percent annualized rate.

3. Alan Greenspan on Interest Rates. In September 2007, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan released a book, in which he claimed the economy was heading towards two-digit interest rates due to expected inflationary pressures. One year later, the Fed Funds rate was at historical lows.

4. Peter Schiff and the End of the World. Financial commentator Peter Schiff became famous in the aftermath of the 2007-8 financial crisis for having predicted the housing crash of 2006 (even a broken clock is right twice a day). Since then, he has continually forecast economic catastrophes. In 2010 he predicted that Quantitative Easing - the unconventional monetary policy undertaken by the Fed between 2008 and 2014 - would result in hyperinflation and the eventual destruction of the dollar. In fact, inflation since the onset of QE has been 1.68%, slightly below the 2% target of the Fed.

5. Nobel Prize winner in Economics Paul Krugman wrote in 1998, “The growth of the Internet will slow drastically, as the flaw in ‘Metcalfe’s law’— which states that the number of potential connections in a network is proportional to the square of the number of participants — becomes apparent: most people have nothing to say to each other! By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.”

Source: Foundation for Economic Education


One reason economists get it wrong so often: Black Swan events A Black Swan is an unpredictable event beyond what is normally expected. Black Swan events are rare, have severe impact, and are usually followed by the widespread insistence they were obvious in hindsight. Classic Black Swan events include the rise of the internet and the personal computer, the 9-11 attacks, World War One and the collapse of the Soviet Union.


How long do Canadians live? Canada ranks 16th world-wide in life expectancy - average age of death is 82.96, for women 84.68 and men 81.15. Highest life expectancy is in Hong Kong with average of 85.29 years. The USA ranks 46th with an average of 79.11 years. The longest-lived Canadian was Marie-Louis Meilleur of Quebec, born 1880 and lived 117 years and 230 days.


Penguin pub quiz question: The world's oldest penguin, Oma, a king penguin, was put to sleep after entertaining zoo visitors from 1975 at Wuppertal Zoo, Germany. Forty-six-year-old Oma, or Grandma in English, died on November 11, 2020. The Zoo explained Oma had been not been eating lately and lost a significant amount of weight.


Pub quiz collective nouns:


Bees - a bike of bees.


Cats - a glare of cats.


Rattlesnakes - a rhumba of rattlesnakes.


Walruses - a huddle of walruses.


Nellie's vocal secret: The great Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba used to engage in oral sex with a male companion before every performance. Thus nourished, she claimed the result smoothed her vocal chords.


The Mad Hatter's cocktail party introductions: Father Boonlap - I'd like you to meet Clapton Wingfield; Mrs. Bang this is Colonel Barry Zone; Gemma Whiffin do you know Doctor Lovely Billops? Soomi Kwak- meet Monsignor Stufflebeam; Harlem Stonecipher, you already know Chips Stumbles; Hammer Wellbody - this is Professor Jasper Lingus; General Muffling - meet Mrs. Mustafa Minge.


All items easily verified via Google except for Mad Hatter's cocktail party invitation list which has remained confidential until now.



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