By B.J.M. Markx, 1897. White to mate in two moves.
It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that that moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding is really more sensational; and it is also some thousand times more common. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insist upon the permanent miracles. Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, ‘Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe,’ or ‘Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet.’ They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complex picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; they can only represent what is unusual. However democratic they may be, they are only concerned with the minority.
— G.K. Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross, 1909
A puzzle contributed by Howard C. Saar to Recreational Mathematics Magazine, October 1962:
On the day before yesterday, the weatherman said, “Today’s weather is different from yesterday’s. If the weather is the same tomorrow as it was yesterday, the day after tomorrow will have the same weather as the day before yesterday. But if the weather is the same tomorrow as it is today, the day after tomorrow will have the same weather as yesterday.”
It is raining today, and it rained on the day before yesterday. What was the weather like yesterday? (Note: The prediction was correct!)
v. to harass or chase in a manner reminiscent of Achilles
Brad Pitt, who played Achilles in the 2004 film Troy, tore his Achilles tendon during production.
An Irishman, unknown to me, presented a check of one of our customers, payable to the order of Pat O’Flaherty. I told him it would be necessary for him to bring some one to identify him. ‘Identify! and what in God’s name is that?’ he answered. I endeavored to explain to him that he must go and bring in some of his friends whom we knew to satisfy us that he was Pat O’Flaherty. ‘All right,’ he said, and started off; but had scarcely gone fifty yards when he returned, and with a knowing twinkle in his eye, called out to me, ‘See here, if I’m not Pat O’Flaherty, who the divil am I?’ This was unanswerable.
— Henry C. Percy, Our Cashier’s Scrap-Book, 1879
Hit by antiaircraft fire over Bremen on Dec. 20, 1943, Air Force pilot Charlie Brown was separated from his formation. His B-17 had three damaged engines, a wounded crew, and malfunctioning electrical, hydraulic, and oxygen systems. Brown lost consciousness briefly and awoke to find himself shadowed by a German Messerschmitt that did not attack — as Brown flew slowly back to England, the enemy plane accompanied him as far as the North Sea, where the pilot saluted and let him go.
Brown returned to his air base in England, completed his tour, and returned to the United States. In the 1980s he began a search for the German pilot who had spared him, and eventually was contacted by Franz Stigler, who described the escort and the salute just as Brown had remembered them. Stigler was now living in Canada, and the two became close friends until their deaths in 2008.
Asked why he hadn’t fired on Brown’s shattered bomber, Stigler said, “I looked across at the tail gunner and all I could see was blood running down his gun barrels. I could see into Brown’s plane, see through the holes, see how they were all shot up. They were trying to help each other. To me, it was just like they were in a parachute. I saw them and I couldn’t shoot them down.”
He recalled the words of his commanding officer: “You follow the rules of war for you — not your enemy. You fight by rules to keep your humanity.”
I thought I was kidding on Sunday when I suggested a motorized corn cob holder. But in 2001 Nicholas Kretschmer patented exactly that — and his simulates the sound of a motorcycle engine.
A more direct approach:
(Thanks, Bianca, Ethan, and Jesse.)
When James Harrison had chest surgery at age 13, he resolved to begin donating blood to help others in need. When he did so, doctors realized that he carries a rare immune globulin that can prevent unborn babies from suffering attacks by their mothers’ antibodies, a condition known as Rhesus disease.
In the 59 years since this was discovered, Harrison has given blood more than 1,000 times, an average of once every three weeks for five decades, and his donations have saved an estimated 2.4 million babies.
This has earned Harrison a spot in Guinness World Records. He calls this “the only record that I hope is broken.”
In his first field journal, John Muir listed his home address as “Earth, planet, Universe.”
“I am inclined to believe that few attacks either of ridicule or invective make much noise, but by the help of those they provoke.” — Samuel Johnson