Education of a prince

I’m enjoying The Sleepwalkers, Christopher Clark’s history of the start of the First World War. I may well not make it through all 700-odd pages, but so far he has an eye for the comically grotesque in early 20th century Europe.

So there’s the story of how a military officer nicknamed Apis, veteran of several regicidal plots, was trusted to look after the crown prince:

when King Petar looked in the winter of 1905 for a companion to accompany his son, Crown Prince Djordje, on a journey across Europe, he should choose none other than Apis, fresh from a long convalescence and still carrying three of the bullets that had entered his body on the night of the assassinations. The chief architect of the regicide was thus charged with seeing the next Karadjordjevic king through to the end of his education as prince. In the event, Djordje never became king; he disqualified himself from the Serbian succession in 1909 by kicking his valet to death

Hiding from the public

Good Yorkshire Rant on issues where the UK political parties are in agreement, and a majority of the population disagrees with them all.

It has been true, as long as there has been a privatised railway, that any British politician could do better in the polls by attacking it and by promising to reverse the privatisation….There is even a simple policy option available to make it happen: stop issuing franchises and just let them all revert. Yet no-one with any power has been willing to take the step of making this option available on the ballot. The political system’s role as a mechanism for limiting the agenda has rarely been more clear.

The parties doing well, UKIP and the SNP, are the ones breaking out of this consensus to avoid certain issues

Pool: a game all about stoning chickens

The Etymologicon is a wonderful book on English word origins. I thought I’d share one particularly hilarious bit: the origin of pool:

It starts with French gamblers. Apparently they would place bets on who was able to hit a chicken (poule) with a rock. Then:

The term got transferred to other things. At card games, the pot of money in the middle of the table came to be known as the


. English gamblers picked the term up and brought it back with them in the seventeenth century. They changed the spelling to


, but htey still had a pool of money in the middle of the table.

When billiards became a popular sport, people started to gamble on it, and this variation was known as


, hence shooting pool.

Crystal meth in Tehran

Crystal meth is increasingly popular in Iran, reports the Guardian

Meth production in the country has been expanding at an astonishing rate


Research carried out by the State Welfare Organisation shows that over half a million Tehranis between the ages of 15 and 45 have used it at least once.

Meth is apparently less socially constrained than other drugs. Cocaine is for the rich, ecstasy is for teenagers, opium is for the elderly — but crystal meth is for everyone.