The good luck of making fortunate discoveries by accident;
as, Her sound decisions come not from serendipity but from hard work.

Arab traders called Sri Lanka (meaning splendid land) Serendip. Later Portuguese invaders called it Ceilao which Dutch colonists spelled Ceylan, and the imperial British turned this into Ceylon.

Serendipity was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754 from a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. According to Walpole, the three princes of this story "were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of". Thus serendipity is "the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident."

A character in Kevin Smith's excellent movie Dogma, played by the lugubrious Salma Hayek. Previously a muse, Serendipity was given a body (although it's about as anatomically correct as Barbie's) and let down to earth to try her own luck as an artist.

Unfortunately, she suffers from writer's block, and at the time of her introduction into the plot is working as a stripper (and a damn fine one!) in a road-side joint where the rest of the Scooby Gang protagonists catch up with her and co-opt her into their world saving mission.

From a poll of over 15,000 people, serendipity was claimed to be the UK's favourite word.

The poll was made in the year 2000 as part of the Second Annual Festival of Literature, and initiated by its Trustee, Bob Geldof. Geldof started this poll as 'part parlour game, part Domesday survey.'

The top ten results are as enjoyable as the winning word suggests, which Walpole defined as "the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident'. Just as serendipity is a word coined from a fairy tale, the close second place word is 'quidditch', a word for a fantastic game in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. It's close to existing English words 'quiddity' and 'quidnunc'. Muggle, from Rowling's books, also appeared in the top ten, as did the swear words 'fuck' and 'bollocks'.

Other made up words in the poll, but with just one or two votes, were Ralph Steadman's 'entwangled' 'combining entangled and entwined which suggests an amorous embrace between octopuses;' Kermit the Frog's 'Hi Ho', a greeting for when you've forgotten a friend's name; and 'cockadoodlechucklequack'.

The top ten list, with tying words, is:


sources: The guardian uk newspaper, my OED, and the festival of literature home page:
http://www.theword.org.uk/index.html

A young Christian band formed in early 2001 from Newcastle, Australia that musically draw from the perhaps slightly uninspiring roots of punk-poppers such as Blink 182, but have developed their approach and technique to the point where they have become a very interesting and encouraging band to watch as they evolve. Best of all, they are all fantastic guys that have an incredible love for Jesus Christ that radiates out of their performances and songs. Who cares if they are occasionally a bit naive-sounding in places? Everyone's learning.

The band consists of:
- Joel Turner (Vocals)
- Brad van der Linden (Guitar, Vocals)
- James Norman (Guitar)
- Billy Otto (Bass)
- Shaun Saville (Drums)

They have one full-length album (Radiator) and an EP under their belt.

They have a web site which can be found at http://www.serendipitytheband.com/

Have you ever been handed a glass by a friend or acquaintance and told, "try this - it's Scotch and it's peaty, you'll like it?" If you have, perhaps you've taken a cautious sip - or a healthy slug - and decided that no, Sam I Am, you do not like this. Strong Islay whiskies have a particular charcoal and iodine bite to them, and even if that taste is to your liking, it can get in the way of enjoying the actual liquor because it doesn't let up. There's no light finish to contrast the dark smoke blast; there's a constant need for a glass of water to balance the fire. Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Laphroaig; these are all prime examples.

I, personally, enjoy this, but many don't.

There are some blends that attempt to cope with this issue by using the smoke-dark Islays to give character to a lighter amalgam of flavors. This approaches the problem from one side - offering a hint of the peat blast in the substance of a lighter whisky. While this might offer a solution for those to whom the peat is an occasional delectation and not a way of life, there is another answer.

Serendipity.

Unfortunately, it's not easy to find.

See, once upon a time, the Ardbeg distillery sent off a few casks of the 18-year-old that they unearthed from the warehouse to the bottler's. These casks had sat quietly maturing in a stone-and-wood building just north of Port Ellen for eighteen years, through two changes of ownership and a multi-year period where the distillery was closed entirely; slowly absorbing rougher phenols and complex organics into the charcoal while releasing smooth carbon compounds back into the whisky. Ardbeg 17 is a reference Islay whisky; one of the great ones, and because of those years when the distillery was closed we are now in a fallow period - one where no whisky was laid down at the right time to become a 17 year old. There won't be a 17 for the next few years.

But these few casks had been held back, and were nearly the last of the lot. They were a small but worthy batch of a truly great single malt, and as such, they needed to be free. Plus, of course, they were worth a heap of money. So off to the bottling plant they went, to be decanted into Ardbeg labelled bottles and shipped around the world where enthusiasts would pay happily for those moments of peat and pain.

The barrels were tapped; their contents (no doubt verified the old fashioned way, good men) placed into a holding tank from which the bottling machinery would draw. All correct.

Then the horror struck.

Somehow, a button was pressed, a component failed, who knows? But a quantity of much younger Glen Moray Speyside whisky was dumped into that same tank.

This, in a stroke, removed that entire batch of single-malt Ardbeg from the world. It could no longer be sold as Ardbeg; indeed, it no longer was Ardbeg. Furthermore, it couldn't even be sold as a single malt, since there were multiple whiskies in the tank.

I'm sure various people were fired. I have no idea.

In amongst the hullaballoo, though, someone eventually and inevitably asked "So 'as anyone 'ad a swig of it, then?"

See, that's the thing. It's...really, really good. It's not Ardbeg anymore. But it's four parts Ardbeg to one part Glen Moray, roughly - and what that does to the whisky is (cue David Bowman/Starchild voice)...something wonderful. Where once there was an unremitting flare of charcoal and peat, finishing on the tongue with a trail of smoke, now...now there is a peat blast with a peal of clear bright flame running through it; one which - most importantly - finishes not with the sullen crackle of burning, but with the clear gold of a Speyside. The full power of the Ardbeg is present in the initial mouthful, but as you swallow and the whisky subsides, the power of the peat gives way to the tonals of the grain.

It's a really amazing thing, it is.

The best part, for people who like to drink their whisky rather than look at it, is that because it was no longer a single-malt and because it was a one-time 'accident', it was given a slightly light-hearted label and sold only through local distributors (local to the distillery) for around 30 quid, which is far less than what a bottle of Ardbeg 17 would have commanded.

The bad part? The bad part is that there were those few thousand bottles made, and no more.

And, by God, there never will be again. This is ironic because this whisky, while it may not be better than Ardbeg's standard, is certainly (for many people) much more 'drinkable' in terms of simple palatability for straight consumption, as opposed to sips of a powerful yet distinctive flavor.

But don't get used to it. It won't last. I've had three bottles hand-carried over to me from Scotland by a fellow traveller, but already, he reports, supplies are drying up and getting expensive as collectors realize that 'this many will there be, and no more.' Damn the liquids ban on airlines; they have done more harm than they know.

Please. Please, friends. If you are fortunate enough to get your hands on a bottle of Serendipity, do yourself and the bottle a favor. Remember that it was never meant to be. Its time on earth was a gift of accident and whimsy. Its existance is meant for your palate. Don't stock the whisky.

Drink it.

Sssshhh...as of the time of this writeup, if you are NOT in the US or Canada, you can still buy this whisky direct from http://www.ardbeg.com for 30 quid a bottle! DO NOT DELAY! Heh. Damn import laws.

Written by Stephen Cosgrove and illustrated by Robin James, Serendipity is a children's story about a pink sea monster who fights pollution to protect the ocean creatures. When she is first hatched, the monster has no name. She is given the name Serendipity by the first friends she makes, a walrus and a dolphin who are the King and Queen of all Fishes even though neither one of them is a fish, after she rescues the dolphin from an untended fishing net and spins around and around really fast to remove some pollution from the ocean.

Sounds a little sugary, doesn't it? Welcome to my nightmare. You see, "Serendipity" is only the first of some thirty-odd books by Cosgrove and James, in every one of which a different animal or fantasy creature with an improbable name learns a valuable lesson about the environment, or friendship, or honesty. Maui-Maui the whale teaches Mom Amomony not to catch more fish than she needs. Sassafras the elephant learns not to talk back when an annoying echo keeps mimicking her. Rhubarb the puppy discovers that "to have a friend you must be a friend". And there's a cute poem summing up the moral at the end of each book. Like, totally!

Serendipity was published in 1974, and was followed by book after book in rapid succession. I suspect it took Cosgrove and James all of a week to finish each book. The books are filled with lazy writing - there's a "peaceful" or a "suddenly" on almost every page - and descriptions so flowery and sweet that they will give almost any literate parent an instant migraine. Logical disconnects like the king and queen of the fishes not being fishes themselves are constantly popping up, and in well over half the books I've read the lesson of the book is not so much learned or earned by the protagonist so much as it is dropped on his or her head in the last three pages.

The illustrations are competent, but suffer from the same ungodly desire to make everything sweet enough to choke a honeybee. Every animal, even the aquatic beasts and the reptiles, has huge doe eyes with long, fluttery eyelashes, and most of them look like My Little Ponies.

Granted, these are books for preschoolers and lower grades, but that's no excuse for being obnoxious. Kevin Henkes writes for the same age group, with much the same goals, and does it with humor and intelligence. Shel Silverstein and Maurice Sendak both write better than this, and their subjects don't all have ridiculous Bambi eyelashes.

Naturally, the series was a massive hit in the Seventies, when environmentalism was becoming a major theme in children's literature. And unfortunately, it's still fairly popular, probably because parents who happen upon the books in Borders remember those valuable lessons and forget that the books are actually nauseatingly positive and cute.

Your children will love them. Don't say I didn't warn you.

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