Jul 29, 2007


The back cover of this novel by Sidney Sheldon is intriguing, this is how it goes:

“The daughter of a rich and powerful father, Elizabeth Roffe is a young, beautiful(as usual)- and sole heir to a billion dollar fortune.

Then tragedy strikes. Her father is killed in a freak accident and Elizabeth much (this was meant to be must, there has been a publishing error by Harper Collins, the publisher) take command of his mighty global empire, the pharmaceutical company Roffe and Sons. It makes Elizabeth Roffe the richest girl in the world. But someone, somewhere is determined that she must die.

From the backstreets of Istanbul to the upmarket offices of New York, Bloodline is a hypnotic tale of love and ambition, danger, intrigue and death.”

The book to me at least was slightly below the expectations I held from Sidney Sheldon. A crude story line sophisticated by the additions of manifold characters and unnecessary information.

Well, the story is about five members who are in the Board Of Directors for Roffe and Sons Pharmacy; all of them have a reason to have a desperate urgency of cash. They can all get cash on liquidating their stocks. That can’t happen because Roffe and Sons is private, therefore, all the five members somehow need to eliminate the head i.e. Mr. Roffe and Elizabeth so that they can have another head who will allow Roffe an Sons to go public. Thereby, able to liquidate their stocks and acquire the money they need.

So it was obvious to me that it was one of the Board of Directors is the one who is trying to kill Elizabeth and had killed Samuel Roffe. Out of the blue a mythical of sorts detective enters the story and has the plot, surprise-surprise. The climax is mediocre and descriptions of personal moments were less than enticing. The book is average but intriguing and uncomment able until you finish reading it.

Jul 19, 2007


For 38 years Sarah Winchester went to sleep with the sound of hammering around her. No lullaby could have soothed her more as a widow from the loss of her husband and grieving for the death of her son. She was on an extraordinary life objective.

When her husband died she inherited about $20 million and also a daily income of $1000, from William’s holding in the Winchester Repeating Arms Co.

Many people were killed from the rifles manufactured from the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. and a considerable fortune to Winchester cam from the sales of these guns. The souls of the victims- there were thousands of them- told Mrs. Winchester that they had destroyed the life of her husband and son as revenge. If Mrs. Winchester were not to abide to their commands she would always incur the same wrath.

Sarah Winchester was never reported to be an eccentric in her life. What she did was perhaps was anyway too expensive for any eccentric to imagine! I mean, they could have, after all then why the hell are they called eccentrics then.

The medium that warned her of her life demanded that she buy a house and keep building it to expand it until the end of her life. On doing so, she would not be troubled by the spirits.

The house that Mrs. Winchester was constructing was to be specially designed for the spirits. She brought an eight-room farmhouse at Santa Clara Valley in California. There until 1922, the year she died, work continued day and night as the hammer banged planks and nails. After each days work Mrs. Winchester would retire to her séance room, where she would get instructions by the medium for the next requirements in the house and if any changes be made from the earlier planned architecture by the spirits. In the morning Mrs. Winchester would relay the same to the Chief Carpenter.

The myriad features in the architecture of the house serve dual purposes.

For example there are doors that open into thin air.

One reveals a closet no more than an inch deep. What seems to be the door of the closet leads to a 30-room suite. One set of stairs leads to another set, which then leads back to the same story.

Another stairway has 44 steps and turns 7 corners- but rises a mere nine feet. Stairs leading to the ceiling one of the bizarre features introduced (as shown in picture).

To spare the spirits embarrassment, as they are not reflective, the house has only two mirrors. The lighting of the house is spectacular as they are placed such that humans do not cast any shadow as the spirits don’t cast them either.

38 years of incessant labor acknowledged a house spread over 6 acres that contains 160 rooms. Originally, there were 750 rooms but they were torn apart and replaced as the spirits changed their plans. The Winchester remains one of the most phenomenal houses wrought by history due to its structural complexity. It contains six kitchens, 40 bedrooms, 467 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 fireplaces, 40 stairways, 52 skylights, six safes and a shower.
The entire house cost Mrs. Winchester close to $5.5 million of what she called her blood money to lift a curse- and a provided a feast for lovers of the bizarre and the extravagant.

Jul 17, 2007


Daniel Dancer is the world’s most miserly man as per records. In fact he has attained post-humus fame for his legendary miserliness. His entire life was devoted for miserly pursuits. He has been tagged as the King of Misers as his exploits would put any miser to a blue shame.

Dancer was the son of a miser and the grandson of another. On their death he inherited a tract of land in northern London, which provided him with a considerable annual income. He took meals just once in a day, which also, was just a meager scrap of meat and a single cold dumpling.

Once he found a dead sheep on a field, despite the repelling odor from the decomposing body, Dancer took it home to lock it up in his trunk.

Lady Tempest was a kindly lady; she sent him a gift of a trout cooked in claret. The weather was cold and the trout arrived frozen, to save requirements for heating it, Dancer sat over the fish until it was thawed enough to be eaten.

Dancer’s lifestyle was sleeping in a sack, his clothes consisted largely of rags and bundle of straws. On one of his rare visits to London, he was mistook for a beggar and tossed a halfpenny. Dancer pocketed it, “Every little helps,” he commented.

However he did have a guilty extravagance, once a year he brought a second hand shirt, which he would then wear until it perished to pieces.

His brotherly ‘love’ was another quality in him. In 1766, his sister, who worked as a housekeeper fell ill. He refused to call a doctor, “Why should I waste my money in wickedly endeavoring to counteract the will of Providence? If the old girl’s time is come…she may as well die now as at any future period.”

Lady Tempest, to whom she intended to leave her forune, looked after Miss Dancer. However, when Miss Dancer died, it was learnt she had not prescribed a Will. Dancer acquired two-thirds of the estimate by claiming 30 years back rent for her accommodation and food.

Dancer delighted in hiding his money, he hid it under piles of farmyard manure. In fact he barricaded himself in his house, fearing from robbers.

Finally, Dancer died in 1794. The kindly Lady Tempest inherited his estate. Unfortunately, as she nursed Dancer on his deathbed, she took ill as well. Within four months she too was dead.

Jul 16, 2007

The History Behind Hadley Street

When I launched my website http://hadleystreet.blogspot.com/ I was a little apprehensive as to whether my website will have any visibility on the Internet. With the course of time I even had a couple of Google Adsense advertisement flanking my homepage. Then I started posting about topics I had an idea about. Mind you, I worked very hard to have all this typed up. I had foolishly hoped that all this would suddenly make my Blog a top-ranking search result on Google. Then truth dawned this won’t work either; soon I was adding Meta tags feverishly.

For a couple of days I had given up completely, Google listed ‘hadleystreet’ as ‘no search result’ with cruel contempt. Then a miracle happened, I searched ‘hadleystreet’ on the search engine after a couple of days and surprise-surprise, my website was at least visible and also there were just four results. My website was being used in another search engine, that great noble website was- http://vincentabry-swicki.eurekster.com/

Search keywords like Voynich, Horrocks (which are all content words in my site) and they yielded top one result. Finally I was glad that my website was somewhere on the Internet.

As a matter of fact now I am looking forward to publicizing my Blog; make tie-ups with other ‘blogspot’ webmasters. Basically create ‘hadleystreet’ partners or affiliates like http://hadleyavenue.blogspot.com/ and http://hadleypark.blogspot.com/ . Which is one way I believe to get a torrential number of interested visitors and establish a symbiotic link-up. Let the ‘hadley’ brand name become a possibility, of which I’m confident. Do you wish to join me? Or shall I make an offer you cannot refuse?

Vox Populi

Graffiti. Everyone has tried it once and occasionally read others graffiti’s out of curiosity. However, graffiti left by citizens of Ancient Rome is proving to be a historical treasure trove. With a stylus, Romans scratched writings on the plastered walls of private residences and public pavements, walls etcetera.

“Oh wall,” noted one citizen in Pompeii, “I am surprised you have not collapsed and fallen, seeing that you support the loathsome scribbling of so many writers.”

More than 180,000 of these inscriptions are catalogued in the Corpus Inscriptonium Latinarum, a gargantuan database maintained by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Every year 500 inscriptions are added to this database as excavations for hotels and restaurant foundations reveal new epigraphic treasures. These throw open the window to the civil Roman society which achingly reminds us of our own lifestyle, revealing ragged edges of normal life- from inscriptions on parents grieving of their son or the prices prostitutes charged their clients.

British classicist Keith Hopkins has estimated that 28% of Roman children died before they completed 12 months. Yet epigraphists found relatively few inscribed tombs for Roman infants in Italy- just 1.3% of the total percentage. This discrepancy suggests that parents in ancient Rome refrained from raising an expensive monument for a child, unwilling to mourn publicly or privately. Though some Romans could not refrain from it as they openly celebrated a baby’s birthday with “Cornelius Sabinus has been born,” a message said where passer-bys and neighbors could see it easily.

Other graffiti’s supported grieving widows, “Glauco was born at Mutina. Fought seven times, died in the eighth. He lived 23 years, 5 days.” As studies of epitaphs show, skilled gladiators rarely survived more than 10 matches, dying at an average age of 27. At the end of each fatal clash, stretcher-bearers took the body to the local morgue. There the officials slit the throat to ensure that the gladiator is truly dead. Then they handed it over to the family for mourning.

One surviving poster describes how Deminus Lucretius Satrius Valeris, a priest of Nero, and another prominent Roman sponsored a major event in Pompeii. This expensive attractions included “20 pairs of gladiators,” the “customary wild beast hunt,” and “awnings” to shade spectators from the sun.

The Roman citizens might never have imagined the clues to historians they have provided by ranting their feelings on the wall. Perhaps we should continue to do what humans do best- gain public empathy with- THE WRITINGS ON THE WALL.

Jul 14, 2007


The Indian HRD Ministry is planning to initiate an apex body for all the government bodies which as of now function separately for Higher Education. The matter will be taken up as a Cabinet note has already been issued.

This plans comes under the guise to make all technical education departments such as All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), Medical Council of India (MCI), Dental Council of India (DCI) as one single entity and under the supervision of the new commission- termed by the media as Super-UGC. Even the UGC, University Grants Commission will be under this super-regulatory body.

The government expects this move to bring about uniformity in all fields of higher education such as medical, agricultural, engineering etcetera. The proposed apex body will look into access, equity, relevance and quality in higher education.

An official said, “At times, these regulatory bodies work at cross-purposes resulting in higher education policy losing its focus. There should be uniformity in the education policy. Therefore, the proposal has been made to create a federating body.”

He also added that the UGC was instated to function as above but its function got clipped.

Friday the 13th

On Friday, July 13th around 3:01 I waited at Metropolitan Mall. I was supposed to catch a movie with a friend. As it turned out, unfortunately Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix had been released that day (I should’ve known its Friday the thirteenth.). I had no intention to watch Potter on screen- moreover on first day!

However I learnt the PVR cinemas were running 7 shows of Harry Potter in one day and the ticket price placed at a murderous 175 bucks!! The other films like Die Hard 4(bang-on film people- a must watch, absolutely mind boggling material!) were having only two shows per day and the sadistic management had made sure that people like me looking forward for an action packed matinee had to settle for a emotional, demented, clichéd wizard. Its not that I abhor Harry Potter, its just that after you read the book, watching it in motion neither has the real substance nor the same passion within the tale.

DH4 was running at 11:30, which I had missed and then at 19:30 that would ensure I would not be back before midnight and just to remind you, I had left home to catch a matinee. The other remaining films were Apne(Aaaaaaagh!), Bombay to Goa(yaaagh!) etcetera.

So as you might have deduced by now I was sitting in audit 3 of PVR waiting for Harry to start his ‘Chosen One’ crap. I mean he says he is an ordinary student but moves around Hogwarts as if he were Daniel Radcliff (ha-ha, I know it’s a weak joke.).

Now one thing I noticed was that the before the cinema begins, generally there are a very limited number of ads but, surprise-surprise, the movie began fifteen minutes late considering the given show timing because of the torrential ad displays because of Potter hype.

The viewers seemed happy when finally the Censor certificate for Harry Potter was shown as they clapped and hooted. I sulked with every second leading to the first scene and remained unmoved, unfazed, indifferent as Harry cried, had nightmares, enjoyed hero worship and finally angry when Sirius Black is killed. Yeah, big deal!
Mind you, when I read the book and Sirius Black was killed, I reread the page to ensure I hadn’t misread it. But in this theatre with the air-conditioner in full blast I was busier wondering if PVR has heater facilities for winter.

Finally, the movie ended with Harry going back to muggle world. However, I did enjoy the snog between Harry and Cho and the succeeding scene in which Harry discusses the episode with Ron and Hermoine. The rest of it was very obscure, very Harry and very avoidable.

Jul 10, 2007

Secretary To The Spirits

Stella Horrocks sits on a chair in her small terraced house with a notepad in front of her. Suddenly the pen begins to move; soon it is storming through pages in a blind flurry.

Stella is only one of a number of people who have the ability to take dictations from the dead. Skeptics have only been able to account for secondary personality- nothing concrete.

Horrocks claims that the world’s greatest Late literary figures have dictated to her novels, books, diaries, memoirs, each in a different handwriting. Her transcribers include President John F. Kennedy, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen. Movie star David Niven and Lord Mountbatten are others.

However, she still has not found a publisher for these, she finds their attitude discouraging, “I’m not in it for the money,” she says, “I would just like to see these works reach a wider public.”

Stella can also describe the individual characteristics of the authors she writes for, “Jane Austen has a much lighter touch than Charles Dickens though he is full of life,” she says, “and Noel Coward digs into the paper as if he were gardening. Another one is Thomas Hardy, he is completely different: more of a businessman.”

But taking a dictation from the dead can be an overwhelming task. “They can go on writing for 3 hours,” she says, “when Dickens wrote about the Battle of Waterloo, I got through about 200 pages in a couple of days.

Others seem to dictate more slowly. Stella’s technique to ‘tune in’ to dead authors is simple she says, “You can’t contact them, they have to contact you when they are ready. You have to keep your mind a complete blank to receive. I don’t know what they are going to do before they start: they tell me each word as they go.”

A stockpile of plays by Noel Coward and ‘new’ collection of war stories from W. Somerset Maughan are all kept by Stella Horrocks.


Circumstantial Evidence?
Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, an English politician and justice of the peace was found murdered on October 17, 1678. His body lay in a ditch on Greenberry Hill in London. Three men were arrested and tried for his murder, their names Robert Green, Henry Berry and Lawrence Hill.

Class Conscious!
In 1906 six babies were born aboard the German ship Grosser Kurfurst, which sailed from Bremen to New York: one in first class, two in second class and three in third class.

Hat trick Hero.
Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln was present in Ford Theatre, Washington D.C. when his father was assassinated in 1865. He was also near President James Garfield when he was shot at the Baltimore and Potomac station in Washington D.C. in 1881. He happened to be just a few feet away from President William McKinley in 1901 while McKinley was at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.

Be wary of JMB on February 13th!
Just a day before Valentine in 1746, a French man, Jean Marie Dubarry was put to death for the murder of his father. Exactly hundred years later, a day before Valentine, another person was executed for murdering his father, the perpetrator’s name-Jean Marie Dubarry.

The Name-Safe.
On December 5, 1664 a boat sank at Menai Strait on the Irish Sea. Only one of the passenger’s survived viz. Hugh Williams. Then on December 5, 1785 another boat sank at the same place. The only survivor was a man named Hugh Williams. On August 5, 1820, 24 passengers of a stricken vessel drowned however one of them was saved; his name was Hugh Williams.

Nouvelle Cuisine

In the winter of 1870-71, Paris was completely cut off from the rest of the world. Prussian army had surrounded Paris. Food stocks rapidly vanished and the Parisians were compelled to eat whatever was available.

Although horseflesh was customarily eaten in France, horses that once pulled carriages for the wealthy were now on their plate. Two horses gifted by the Russian Czar to Napoleon are estimated to be among the estimated 65,000 horses slaughtered for food. But with horse becoming difficult to obtain, gourmets turned their hungry gaze on cats and dogs.

Culinary skills were put to rigorous test so as to disguise the taste of such ‘novel’ ingredients of the cuisine. As the black winter wore on, there was still no sign of the siege ending. Soon rodents were added into the edible list. Large rats dangled from hooks in the rat market at the center of Paris, ornamental goldfish from the ponds of the local parks in Paris were also put up for sale. Local Parisian, once accustomed to the finest food now discussed the best way to cook rat meat and make it more edible.

French newspaper, ‘Les Nouvelles’ published the menu from the ingredients available, that the Parisians consumed. As shown:

Consomme de cheval au millet
(Horse soup with millet)

Brochettes de foie de chien a la maitre d hotel
(Dog liver kebabs)

Eminces de rable de chat sauce mayonnaise
(Slices saddle of cat with mayonnaise sauce)

Epaule de filet de chien sauce tomate
(Shoulder of dog with tomato sauce)

Civet de chat aux champignons
(Cat stew with mushrooms)

Cotelettes de chien aux petits pois
(Dog chops with peas)

Salmis de rats a la Robert
(Rat stew)

Gigot de chien flanque de ratons
(Dog leg with small rats)

Plum pudding au jus et a la moelle de cheval
(Plum pudding with horse-marrow sauce)

Paris Zoo reluctantly put up its animals for sale to serve as food for the Parisians. The zoo considered the lion and tiger dangerous to attempt for slaughter; monkeys were spared due to their close relation to humans. A hippopotamus was put up for sale at 80,000 francs, no one brought it because of the exorbitant price and also the risk that it might turn out to be inedible. However yaks, buffaloes and elephants made a roaring trade.
By the end of January 1871, the siege was over and it was with much respite that the Parisians returned to their conventional fare.

Jul 8, 2007

Spying- The Necessary Evil

Espionage has been implemented ever since man first learnt to wage a war. Chinese military expert Sun Tzu quoted, “Those who know the enemies as well as they know themselves will never suffer defeat.” All great Generals have proved his statement to be correct time and again.

Perhaps the best way to know your foe I by not letting him know that you intend to! For this reasons spies have played a crucial role for centuries now.

Sidney Reilly however has been known as the greatest spy who existed in his time. Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond once said, “007 was just a piece of nonsense I dreamed up. He was not a Sidney Reilly, you know.”

Now concentrating on what keeps the sleuths ticking. One agent marked, “There is a job to be done and you will need some hardware.”

Indeed the CIA and the KGB spy organization have devised and invented gadgets and chemicals that would surprise you to an inferiority complex. Russians leaders are reportedly terrified of the creations from their top poison-making factory. One KGB Chief said, “You just touch something by chance and there’s your funeral.”

This is not an exaggeration; CIA boffins developed a shellfish toxin so lethal that just a drop of it on your skin will cause an instant heart attack to that unfortunate person. Later, the toxin evaporates leaving no clue! It (CIA) has also devised cigars that trigger a nerve gas gun on touching the bands; also ash tray’s which explode when a cigarette is stubbed out- killing everyone within 10 feet.

What perhaps makes spying so intriguing is the naked danger you put yourself, even the government you work for will/may/can turn your back. The risks of espionage vary. A spy may be breaking the host country's laws and can be deported, imprisoned, or even executed, as the Rosenbergs were. A spy breaking his/her own country's laws can be imprisoned for espionage.

For example, when Aldrich Ames handed a stack of dossiers of CIA agents to his KGB-officer "handler," the KGB "rolled up" several networks, and at least ten people were secretly shot. When Ames was arrested by the FBI, he faced life in prison; his contact, who had diplomatic immunity, was declared persona non grata and taken to the airport. Ames's wife was threatened with life imprisonment if her husband did not cooperate; he did, and she was given a five-year sentence.

Hugh Francis Redmond, a CIA officer in China spent nineteen years in a Chinese prison for espionage: he was an "illegal", operating without diplomatic cover.

These are just kind illutration that come before us, the cases of ruthless actions never come before us, they cannot let it-the spies would not let us live for long, if we know the facts.

The Voynich Manuscript- The Most Mysterious Yet!

“BEINECKE RARE BOOK AND MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY” at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut houses the world’s most mysterious manuscript. Curators narrate a frustrating story of attempts to decipher the book to inquisitive visitors.

Under the Beinecke Library’s roof are countless rare books and invaluable manuscripts, one of them- Voynich Manucript.

The Voynich Manucript is of particular interest because no one has been able to read it till date. The world’s greatest cryptographers and linguists have failed in their attempts to make sense of the Manuscript.

The Manuscript has dimensions 5-three-fourth by 8-half inches and is some 200 pages long. The Vellum leaves have an extraordinary flowing handwriting that have been written by the author in a completely unknown set of alphabets. Illustration along with the text is as bizarre- they seem to represent plants, women and astronomical configurations. Since neither the text nor figures are interpretable the Voynich Manuscript remains the most inexplicable manuscript.

Discovery of this manuscript happened when a New York book dealer, Wilfrid M. Voynich discovered the curious volume in the library. He brought it from the Mondragone College Library, where the manuscript was and initiated to unravel its history. The book also concealed an old letter which was a key to its history.

Year 1666, the letter was addressed to prominent scholar and former tutor, Athanasius Kircher from Marcus Marci, rector of the University of Prague.

Marci wrote that he had got the manuscript from an “intimate friend” and that “for I was convinced it could be read by no one except yourself. He also informed that it was earlier owned by Rudolf II, the holy Roman emperor who died in 1612. Rudolf had paid 600 ducats for it, a huge sum at that period.

More importantly, Marci also said that Rudolf believed the author to be “Roger Bacon, the Englishman.” Bacon who lived in the 13th century was a great figure in medieval learning. Bacon was acknowledged as Doctor Mirabilis, he was a person centuries ahead of his time, he predicted cars and aircrafts- features of the 20th century. A formidable understanding in Physics and Mathematics was his forte; and he was also a renowned philosopher and alchemist.

Could the Voynich Manuscript have ideas, contain scientific theories so groundbreaking that they could not be set down in plain language?

No valid headway was made for nearly 60 years. In the 1970s Robert S. Brumbaugh at the Yale noticed a few symbols on the Voynich manuscript that reminded him of diagrams he had come across in another document. A more meticulous look at some of the margins revealed doodled calculations, suggesting that a similar number code might have been implemented.

On one page there was an illustration of a plant that resembled pepper. He implemented the code that he thought it to be, on studying, he learnt the symbols under the figure read PEPPER. The names of the other plants and stars could be deciphered similarly.

However, the secret of the Voynich Manuscript can still not be said to have been solved by any means. For example the main text is repetitive and absurd. Professor Brumbaugh suggested that they might be disconnected deluge of an alchemist. Brumbaugh believes Bacon as a follower of the ancient art of alchemy that tried to turn base metals into gold, via a use of a secret substance or elixir.

Ideas maybe too radical for the present era, which perhaps will finally be decoded to reveal the ultimate secret within these confusing intricate pages of the Voynich Manuscript