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5 Things You Didn't Know About Margaret Thatcher

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Margaret Thatcher was the tough-talking Conservative face of British politics throughout the 1980s. You may know about her policies, but how well do you know the woman who was nicknamed "The Iron Lady"?

1. She Started Out as a Chemist

In 1943, an 18-year-old Margaret Roberts headed to Oxford on a scholarship and began studying natural sciences. The future prime minister specialized in chemistry, and she was particularly interested in crystallography. She had good teachers, too. Her tutor, Dorothy Hodgkin, would go on to win the Nobel Prize in 1964 for her work in x-ray crystallography.

After earning a postgraduate BSc degree and an MA, Margaret Roberts took a research chemist job with BX Plastics in Essex. However, chemistry quickly took a back seat to politics. When she was in her mid-twenties, she twice ran as the Conservative candidate for the Parliament seat of the Labour stronghold of Dartford. Although she lost both times, she gained a great deal of publicity as the country's youngest female candidate, and her political career started to gain steam.

2. Her Voice Didn't Come Easy

Thatcher's resonant voice may be memorable, but it wasn't exactly natural. Her rise from Member of Parliament to 10 Downing Street might not have happened if she'd maintained her original pipes. Thatcher felt her natural speaking voice was too high to be truly authoritative, so she worked with a voice coach from the National Theater to lower it. After intensive training, Thatcher lowered her pitch by a full 46 hertz, which put her voice at the halfway point between the typical male and female vocal ranges.

3. She Didn't Need Any "Karate Ladies"

thatcher-timeIn 1979, Thatcher attended an economic summit in Japan. She was still a fairly new prime minister when she headed to Tokyo, and her hosts were a bit apprehensive about how a female PM would be received. To ensure Thatcher's safety, they came up with a novel plan: they would offer her a detail of 20 "karate ladies" for protection.

There was only one hitch in this bizarre plan: Thatcher wanted no part of it. Recently released records quote Thatcher's cabinet secretary Sir John Hunt as saying, "Mrs. Thatcher will attend the summit as Prime Minister and not as a woman per se"¦the Prime Minister would like to be treated in exactly the same manner as the other visiting Heads of Delegation...If other delegation leaders, for example, are each being assigned 20 karate gentlemen, the Prime Minister would have no objection to this; but she does not wish to be singled out."

4. Her Husband Was a Bit of a Character

denis-thatThis one's no surprise to British readers, as the domestic press had a field day with Denis Thatcher and depicted him as the U.K.'s more sophisticated answer Billy Carter. For his part, Denis offered this bit of advice on dealing with the press: "'Avoid telling them to sod off. It makes them cross.''

Denis never gave interviews and rarely made public speeches, but when he did, they had a tendency to end poorly. In 1979, he decried the effect the sporting boycott of apartheid-era South Africa was having on English rugby, saying, "We are a free people, playing an amateur game, and we have the right to play where the hell we like." The remark understandably caused a bit of a furor.

During Margaret's term in office, Denis actually played to the public's perception of him as a heavy-smoking golf nut with a penchant for tippling, even referring to himself as "the most shadowy husband of all time." However, Margaret wrote in her autobiography that her husband was "a fund of shrewd advice and penetrating comment. And he very sensibly saved these for me rather than the outside world.''

In 1990 he was made a baronet and became Sir Denis, and he accepted the honor with his usual good humor, saying, 'Thanks. But more important than that, I have just been elected a member of Sunningdale golf club.''

5. Her Son Isn't Quite as Diplomatic

Although she was known for her tough talk, Thatcher understood the benefits of using diplomacy and the political process to prompt change. Her son Mark, on the other hand, may not be quite as easygoing. He ran into trouble for his part in a 2004 coup d'etat attempt in Equatorial Guinea. The convoluted scheme involved a mercenary attack to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and replace him with exiled politician Severo Moto. Financing allegedly came from British backers who wanted to get at Equatorial Guinea's reserves of oil and natural gas.

thatchersSir Mark Thatcher gave the mercenary plot a little over $250,000 to charter various helicopters. In 2005, he plead guilty to breaking anti-mercenary laws in a South African court and received a four-year suspended sentence a $500,000 fine. Sir Mark has maintained that he thought he was funding the helicopters for a mining project, not a mercenary-led coup, but the guilty plea has haunted him. In 2005, the U.S. rejected his application for a visa even though his American wife (they have since divorced) and their children were living in the States.

Sir Mark's twin sister, Carol, made news of her own in 2005. She won the British version of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here by sticking out two weeks in the Australian jungle. The Guardian described Carol as "jaunty, decent, self-deprecating and, when she remembers to brush her hair, oddly sexy."

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5 Things You Should Know About Robert Todd Lincoln
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Robert Todd Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln's oldest son and the only Lincoln child to survive into adulthood. While he didn't make quite the mark on history that his father did, Robert Lincoln had a pretty interesting life himself. Let's take a look at five things you might not know about him:

1. He Was on Ulysses S. Grant's Personal Staff

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Part of Abraham Lincoln's mystique lies in his humble roots as a self-made man who found education where he could. His eldest son didn't have to go through quite as many trials and tribulations to do some learning, though. Robert left Springfield, Illinois, to attend boarding school at New Hampshire's elite Phillips Exeter Academy when he was a young man, and he later graduated from Harvard during his father's presidency.

After completing his undergrad degree, Robert stuck around Cambridge to go to Harvard Law School, but that arrangement didn't last very long. After studying law for just a few months, Lincoln received a commission as a captain in the army. Lincoln's assignment put him on Ulysses S. Grant's personal staff, so he didn't see much fighting. He did get a nice view of history, though; Lincoln was present as part of Grant's junior staff at Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

After the war ended, Lincoln moved to Chicago with his mother and brother and wrapped up his legal studies.

2. The Booth Family Did Him a Favor

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In 1863 or 1864, young Robert Lincoln was traveling by train from New York to Washington during a break from his studies at Harvard. He hopped off the train during a stop at Jersey City, only to find himself on an extremely crowded platform. To be polite, Lincoln stepped back to wait his turn to walk across the platform, his back pressed to one of the train's cars.

This situation probably seemed harmless enough until the train started moving, which whipped Lincoln around and dropped him into the space between the platform and train, an incredibly dangerous place to be.

Lincoln probably would have been dead meat if a stranger hadn't yanked him out of the hole by his collar. That stranger? None other than Edwin Booth, one of the most celebrated actors of the 19th century and brother of eventual Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln immediately recognized the famous thespian "“ this was sort of like if George Clooney pulled you from a burning car today "“ and thanked him effusively. The actor had no idea whose life he had saved until he received a letter commending him for his bravery in saving the President's son a few months later.

3. He Had a Strange Knack for Being Near Assassinations

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Lee's surrender wasn't the only history Lincoln ended up witnessing, although things got a bit grislier for him after Appomattox. As he arrived back in Washington in April 1865 Lincoln's parents invited him to go see Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater with them. The young officer was so exhausted after his journey that he begged off so he could get a good night's sleep. That night, of course, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln's father, and Robert Todd was with the celebrated president when he passed away the next morning.

By 1881, Lincoln's political lineage and prominence as a lawyer qualified him for a national office, and he became Secretary of War under the newly inaugurated James A. Garfield. That July, Lincoln was scheduled to travel to Elberon, New Jersey, by train with the President, but the trip never took off. Before Lincoln and Garfield's train could leave the station, Charles Guiteau shot the Garfield, who died of complications from the wound two months later.

Oddly, that wasn't all for Lincoln, though. Two decades passed without a presidential assassination, but Lincoln's strange luck reared its head again in 1901. Lincoln traveled to Buffalo at the invitation of President William McKinley to attend the Pan-American Exposition. Although he arrived a bit late to the event, Lincoln was on his way to meet McKinley when anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot the president twice at close range.

Following these three bits of bad luck Lincoln refused to attend any presidential functions. He dryly noted that there was "a certain fatality about the presidential function when I am present."

4. He Realized His Mom Was a Little Nutty

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Mary Todd Lincoln is fairly widely renowned today for being mentally ill, but it wasn't quite such an open secret when she was still alive. Robert, however, realized that his mother needed psychiatric help so she didn't become a danger to herself or an embarrassment to her family, so he had her involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in 1875 following a hearing that declared her insane.

Mary Todd was none too pleased about this plan. She not only snuck letters to her lawyer to help her escape from the institution, she also wrote newspaper editors in an effort to convince the public of her sanity. Mary Todd's ploy worked; at a second sanity hearing in 1876 she was declared sane and released from the Batavia, Illinois, sanatorium to which she'd been confined. However, by this point she'd been publicly humiliated and never really patched up her relationship with Robert before her death in 1882.

5. He Made Some Serious Dough on the Railroads

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Once he got his legal practice up and running, Lincoln found a particularly lucrative clientele in the booming railroad industry. He spent most of his career working as a corporate lawyer for various railroads and train-related companies; the only breaks were his four-year stint as Secretary of War under Garfield and successor Chester A. Arthur and a four-year hitch as a minister to Britain under President Benjamin Harrison.

One of Lincoln's major clients was the Pullman Palace Car Company, for which he served as general counsel. When founder George Pullman died in 1897, Lincoln became president of the company, and in 1911 he became chairman of the Pullman Company's board. His lofty position in one of the country's most lucrative companies made him a millionaire and enabled Lincoln to build a sprawling estate, Hildene, in Manchester, Vermont.

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16 404 Pages That Are Worth the Error
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The poem above is old, but the sentiment is universal. I first saw the verse at Plinko's error page, but the original author is nowhere to be found, although the verse owes a lot to Edgar Allan Poe. Looking for something on the internet that leads to an error page is frustrating, but there's an art to alleviating the reader's pain. Only this, and nothing more. Some websites make their 404 page entertaining in itself, and a few make it a real treat. You might even be distracted from what you were trying to find in the first place!

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is all about movies, so it makes sense that their error page gives you a well-known quote about your situation. There are about a dozen quotes that rotate, with some exact quotes, and some that are altered for the occasion.

BedMap is a hotel finder. They also found a great movie quote to adapt for their error page.

The Association for Computing Machinery's error page talks to you in text. The message goes on way after what you see here, until you feel much sorrier for the poor web server than you feel for yourself.

The error page at the game Brain Chef does the same thing as ACM, but instead of becoming melancholy, it flirts with you! And it keeps on, trying to keep you from navigating elsewhere.

The 404 page at Everlasting Blort acknowledges that the server is just as confused as you are. The page contains a flashing .gif that may trigger reactions if you suffer from photosensitive epilepsy. Those who visit Blort often already know that disorientation is what you go there for in the first place.

NPR's error page looks pretty normal for National Public Radio, but it cleverly contains a list of other things besides your missing destination link that cannot be found. After Amelia Earhart and the erased Watergate tape, they list Jimmy Hoffa, your luggage, Atlantis, and Waldo. Each item links to an article about the subject.

Homestar Runner blames you for the error. Which is just as well- I blame them for not adding anything new for years. Still, if you haven't seen all the cartoons, they are there for your enjoyment. But the other error messages they've used over the years were memorable as well.

Lesson learned: don't ever cram a Swiss cake roll into your disc drive.

This Russian business site 404 page is liable to make you forget what you were looking for, even if you don't understand a word of Russian (or Romanian -thanks, !). Let's all dance! This animation is found at more than one Russian site, so it's probably a feature of the hosting service. Warning: the song might be in your head all day.

Blue Fountain Media would like to develop websites and apps for you, but if you reach their error page instead, they offer on online version of Pac-Man for you to play. That makes everything all better, doesn't it?

Titlest golf equipment knows when you've lost a link, and they'll pitch in to help you look for it. In the rough. They've found a lot of golf balls there, after all.

Joel Veitch composed a song and video for Rathergood's 404 page. As you might guess, it's sung by a kitten.

Oh dear, you've got a 404
This isn't what you came here for
Oh dear, you've got a 404, there's nothing here to see
Oh dear, you've got a 404
This isn't what you came here for
Now that you're here, let's have a 404 party!

It's just as silly as anything you could possibly be looking for in his archives.

Woodland Farmers Market sells fresh produce in Washington state. They are also Star Wars fans and punsters.

Mashable did not find the page you're looking for. But they found your socks, so that's a plus, huh? Hey wait, who's wearing my socks? Oh, that's okay, they've got a hole in them anyway.

Bluegg is a company that designs websites. They also designed a sweet 404 page that says,

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! This page doesn't exist
Not to worry. You can either head back to our homepage, or sit there and listen to a goat scream like a human.

I listened to that goat scream quite a few times while preparing this item.

The Rolling Stones website gives you a video on their error page. A very appropriate video.

To be honest, these error pages came from a list that I've been keeping for seven years now. I just added to the list as I found great 404 pages, but I hadn't stopped to check how long the list was until recently. Over the years, many great error pages were lost because the website went out of business. Others just don't seem that creative anymore. Some error pages were changed or gutted due to copyright violations. To save time, I had kept a few posts that were lists of great error pages. Now I find that those posts no longer exist, and the links redirect to boring, everyday error pages. If you know of a wonderful error page everyone should see, please tell us about it!

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