A Quick Walk

The world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade starts at 11 a.m. today in the Village of Carmangay in Alberta. It should be over by 11:02.

Mayor Kym Nichols told the Calgary Eyeopener, “About 32 years ago, the owner of the hotel, who was Irish, came over to the village office with his shillelagh stick on St. Paddy’s Day and said to the mayor at the time, ‘Why don’t you come across and have a beer with me for St. Patrick’s Day?’ And that started it.”

The Carmangay parade covers less than 100 meters, but Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas holds a 29-meter parade that starts at 7:30 tonight. Presumably there are also quantum parades that are too short to measure.

(Thanks, Dan.)

Two by Two

kelly diagram

Cambridge mathematician Hallard T. Croft once asked whether it was possible to have a finite set of points in the plane with the property that the perpendicular bisector of any pair of them passes through at least two other points in the set.

In 1972 Leroy M. Kelly of Michigan State University offered the elegant solution above, a square with an equilateral triangle erected outward on each side (it also works if the triangles are erected inward).

“Croft is a great problemist,” Kelley said later. “He keeps putting out lists of problems and he keeps including that one. He’s trying to get the mathematical community to get a better example — one with more points in it. … Eight is the smallest number; and whether it’s the largest number is another question.”

So far as I know Croft’s question is still unanswered.

Road Tunes

Near the village of Katashina in Japan’s Gunma Prefecture, workers have cut 2,559 grooves into a 175-meter stretch of roadway so that motorists hear the tune “Memories of Summer”:

Japan has now built 30 such “melody roads,” and they’re proliferating. The Singing Road in Anyang, South Korea, plays “Mary Had a Little Lamb”:

And the Civic Musical Road in Lancaster, California, plays the William Tell Overture:

A commenter on the last video wrote, “If you drive it in reverse it says Paul is dead.”

Nothing to Say

Early American radio producers discovered that they could create a convincing crowd sound by having a group of actors repeat the word walla over and over. This technique is still sometimes used in film and TV productions — besides walla, actors sometimes mutter “peas and carrots,” “watermelon cantaloupe,” “natter natter,” or “grommish grommish.” In Europe the word rhubarb is often used.

British comedian Eric Sykes’ 1980 television special Rhubarb Rhubarb plays with this idea by removing all other dialogue: Sykes relies almost entirely on sight gags, and the scant spoken dialogue consists of people saying the word rhubarb. The 1980 program was a remake of Sykes’ 1969 film Rhubarb, which presses this conceit even further: Everyone says “rhubarb,” all the characters are named Rhubarb, car license plates read RHU BAR B, and a baby speaks by holding up a sign that says RHUBARB. “A visual gag,” said Sykes, “is worth three pages of dialogue.”

A Palindromic Pan

Guido Nazzo, an Italian tenor of the 1930s, sang only once in New York and received but one review: ‘Guido Nazzo: nazzo guido.’

— Willard R. Espy, Another Almanac of Words at Play, 1981


Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Hall of Justice, as it appears in DC Comics, was modeled on a train station.

The Super Friends television series, in which the fortress first appeared in 1973, was produced by Cincinnati’s Hanna-Barbera, and background supervisor Al Gmuer based it on Union Terminal, a local landmark.

(Thanks, Steven.)

Tech Talk

Image: Ozan Kilic

In 2017 research scientist Janelle Shane tried to train a neural network to name kittens:

Snox Boops
Jexley Pickle
Toby Booch
Big Wiggy Bool
Mr Whinkles
Licky Cat
Mr Bincheh
Maxy Fay
Mr Gruffles
Liony Oli
Lasley Goo
Mag Jeggles
Mara Tatters
Mush Jam
Mr. Jubble

Bonus: At one point she accidentally trained the network on a dataset of character names from Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, and other fantasy authors and got Jarlag, Mankith, Andend of Karlans, and Mr. Yetheract. See the full list.


Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Guinness Book of Music Facts & Feats nominates Luigi Boccherini as “the most ingratiating composer”: In nearly 600 works comprising 1400 movements, the following directions appear:

  • Affettuoso (“affectionately”): 20 times
  • Grazioso (“gracefully”) or grazia (“with grace”): 25 times
  • Amoroso (“lovingly”): 37 times
  • Soave (“agreeably,” “sweetly,” “delicately,” “gently,” “caressingly,” “lightly”), also soave assai (“extremely …”) and soavita, and once even soave e con grazia: 54 times
  • Dolce (“sweetly”) or Dolcissimo (“very sweetly and gently”): 148 times

“Also to be found are Armonico (‘harmoniously’), con innocenza (‘with innocence’), piacere (‘pleasingly’), and allegretto gentile (‘not too fast, lightly and cheerfully,’ ‘pleasingly,’ ‘elegantly,’ ‘gracefully’), together with hundreds of directions calling for very quiet playing (pp and pp sempre).”

For comparison, Appassionato (“passionately”) appears only 8 times, con brio (“with fire”) only 6 times, and con forza (“with force”) only once.