Black and White

huggins chess problem

By A.Z. Huggins. White to mate in two moves.

Click for Answer

Condensed Ilk

In 2009 experimental poet Robert Fitterman erased most of The Sun Also Rises, retaining only phrases that begin with the word I. The result can sound strangely like the diary entry of a random Saturday afternoon:

I went up to the flat. I put the mail on the table. I heard the door-bell pull. I put on a bathrobe and slippers. I filled the big earthenware jug with water. I dressed slowly. I felt tired and pretty rotten. I took up the brandy bottle. I went to the door. I found some ash-trays and spread them around. I looked at the count. I had that feeling of going through something that has already happened before. I had the feeling as in a nightmare of it all being something repeated, something I had been through and that now I must go through again. I took a note out of my pocket. I looked back and there were three girls at his table. I gave him twenty francs and he touched his cap. I went upstairs and went to bed.

Of Hemingway, Tom Wolfe said, “People always think that the reason he’s easy to read is that he is concise. He isn’t. The reason Hemingway is easy to read is that he repeats himself all the time, using ‘and’ for padding.”

Togetherness

https://www.google.com/patents/US4364132

In 1980 Michigan inventor Lawrence Robinson suggested wrapping an aquarium around a bathtub so that fish lovers can bathe with their pets:

This invention relates to a bathing fixture or tub such as ordinarily employed in the home, which also is an aquarium. The device may be used in the normal manner in the typical home bathroom, but it also provides the unique feature of an aquarium. The aquarium is so related to the bathing section of the tub that a bather will be literally surrounded by the aquarium creatures and/or plants while taking his or her bath.

I wonder what the fish think about this.

Pillow Talk

In 1951 James Thurber’s friend Mitchell challenged him to think of an English word that contains the four consecutive letters SGRA. Lying in bed that night, Thurber came up with these:

kissgranny. A man who seeks the company of older women, especially older women with money; a designing fellow, a fortune hunter.

blessgravy. A minister or cleric; the head of a family; one who says grace.

hossgrace. Innate or native dignity, similar to that of the thoroughbred hoss.

bussgranite. Literally, a stonekisser; a man who persists in trying to win the favor or attention of cold, indifferent, or capricious women.

tossgravel. A male human being who tosses gravel, usually at night, at the window of a female human being’s bedroom, usually that of a young virgin; hence, a lover, a male sweetheart, and an eloper.

Unfortunately, none of these is in the dictionary. What word was Mitchell thinking of?

15 Puzzle

A problem from the 1999 Russian mathematical olympiad:

Show that the numbers from 1 to 15 can’t be divided into a group A of 13 numbers and a group B of 2 numbers so that the sum of the numbers in A equals the product of the numbers in B.

Click for Answer

Shhhh!

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To amuse themselves in 1907, librarians Edmund Lester Pearson and John Cotton Dana published The Old Librarian’s Almanack, a pamphlet they alleged to have been written originally in 1773 by Jared Bean, “curator or librarian of the Connecticut Society of Antiquarians,” and evidently a man of strong opinions:

So far as your Authority will permit of it, exercise great Discrimination as to which Persons shall be admitted to the use of the Library. For the Treasure House of Literature is no more to be thrown open to the ravages of the unreasoning Mob, than is a fair Garden to be laid unprotected at the Mercy of a Swarm of Beasts.

Question each Applicant closely. See that he be a Person of good Reputation, scholarly habits, sober and courteous Demeanour. Any mere Trifler, a Person that would Dally with Books, or seek in them shallow Amusement, may be Dismiss’d without delay.

The book was reviewed seriously in the New York Sun, the New York Times, the Hartford Courant, Publisher’s Weekly, the Newburyport Daily News, the Providence Sunday Journal, and even the Library Association Record, which asked “what librarian would not at times in his secret soul sympathize” with Bean’s irritation with patrons who disturbed his reading time.

Finally Helen E. Haines of the Library Journal discerned the hoax, and the library community realized it had been had. Public Libraries wrote, “We congratulate the author of the book on being so clever to project himself into the past, as to deceive even the very elect. The book is well worth owning and reading. Let us be thankful that one with humor, imagination and sympathy has created for us dear old Jared with his gentle comradeship and his ardent love of books.”

Insight

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Still more wisdom from German aphorist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799):

  • “That man is the noblest creature may also be inferred from the fact that no other creature has yet contested this claim.”
  • “If people should ever start to do only what is necessary, millions would die of hunger.”
  • “I am convinced we do not only love ourselves in others, but hate ourselves in others too.”
  • “Erudition can produce foliage without bearing fruit.”
  • “Nothing is judged more carelessly than people’s characters, and yet there is nothing about which we should be more cautious. Nowhere do we wait less patiently for the sum total which actually is the character. I have always found that the so-called bad people gain when we get to know them more closely, and the good ones lose.”
  • “Completely to block a given effect requires a force equal to that which caused it. To give it a different direction, a trifle will often suffice.”
  • “Undeniably, what we call perseverance can lend the appearance of dignity and grandeur to many actions, just as silence in company affords wisdom and apparent intelligence to a stupid person.”
  • “The sure conviction that we could if we wanted to is the reason so many good minds are idle.”
  • “There were honest people long before there were Christians and there are, God be praised, still honest people where there are no Christians. It could therefore easily be possible that people are Christians because true Christianity corresponds to what they would have been even if Christianity did not exist.”
  • “He who knows himself properly can very soon learn to know all other men. It is all reflection.”
  • “It is certain, it seems, that we can judge some matter correctly and wisely and yet, as soon as we are required to specify our reasons, can specify only those which any beginner in that sort of fencing can refute. Often the wisest and best men know as little how to do this as they know the muscles with which they grip or play the piano. This is very true and deserves to be pursued further.”

See Diamonds and Pearls, From the Notebooks, and The Sage of Göttingen.

Doctor Doctor

Apt names of medical specialists, collected by the MEDLIB-L discussion list in 1998:

Cardiologists: Dr. Valentine, Dr. Hart, Dr. Safety R. First

Chiropractors: Dr. Popwell, Dr. Wack, Dr. Bonebrake, Dr. Bender

Dentists, endodontists and orthodontists: Dr. Pullen, Dr. Fillmore, Dr. Hurt, Dr. Yankum, Dr. Les Plack, Dr. Toothman, Dr. Borer, Dr. Pullman, Dr. Filler, Dr. Harm, Dr. Hurter, Dr. Toothaker

Dermatologists: Dr. Rash, Dr. Pitts, Dr. Skinner, Dr. Whitehead

Family practice, internists: Dr. Kwak, Dr. Blood, Dr. Coffin, Dr. Patient, Dr. Payne, Dr. Slaughter, Dr. A. Sickman, Dr. Deadman, Dr. Will Griever

Hand surgeons: Dr. Palmer, Dr. Nalebuff, Dr. Watchmaker

Medical librarian: Rita Book

Neurologists: Dr. Johnathan Treat Paine, Dr. Brain, Dr. Head

Pediatricians: Dr. Donald Duckles, Dr. Small, Dr. Bunny, Dr. Tickles

Psychiatrists/psychologists/mental health: Dr. Brain, Dr. Strange, Dr. Dippy, Dr. Moodie, Dr. Nutter, Dr. Looney

Surgeons: Dr. Hackman, Dr. Blades, Dr. Klutts, Dr. Graves, Dr. Cutts, Dr. Slaughter, Dr. Kutteroff, Dr. Doctor, Dr. Butcher, Dr. Hurt

More here. In 1977 authors A.J. Splatt and D. Weedon submitted an article on incontinence to the British Journal of Urology. It was accepted.

Sunset

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In May 1856, an African teenager named Nongqawuse had a vision: If her people killed all their cattle, she said, their long-dead ancestors would rise and drive out the European settlers.

Word spread quickly, and they did as she urged. In 10 months that followed, the Xhosa nation killed 400,000 cattle, driven by mounting rumor and revelation that great fields of corn would also spring into existence, that their ancient heroes would return to life, and that sickness and old age would disappear. In his Compendium of South African History and Geography of 1877, George McCall Theal records the climax:

At length the morning dawned of the day so long and so ardently looked for. All night long the Kaffirs had watched, with feeling stretched to the utmost tension of excitement, expecting to see two blood-red suns rise over the eastern hills, when the heavens would fall and crush the races they hated. Famished with hunger, half dying as they were, that night was yet a time of fierce, delirious joy. The morn, that a few short hours, slowly becoming minutes, would usher in, was to see all their sorrows ended, all their misery past. And so they waited and watched. It came, throwing a silver sheen upon the mountain peaks, and bathing hill-side and valley in a flood of light, as the ruler of day appeared. The hearts of the watchers sank within them; ‘What,’ said they, ‘will become of us if Mhlakaza’s predictions turn out untrue?’ It was the first time they had asked such a question, the dawn of doubt had never entered their thoughts till the dawn of the fatal day. But perhaps, after all, it might be midday that was meant, and when the shadows began to lengthen towards the east perhaps, thought they, the setting of the sun is the time. The sun went down behind clouds of crimson and gold, and the Amaxosa awoke to the reality of their dreadful position.

The ensuing famine killed 40,000 Xhosa. “Nongqause escaped, and is still living,” Theal wrote. “For prudential reasons she has ever since resided in the colony, where she preserves an unbroken silence concerning the deeds in which she played so prominent a part.”

Unquote

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“I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.” — G.K. Chesterton