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Before the existence of the association of clubs (1857), and when [baseball] was to be learned only from witnessing the practice and match games at Hoboken, the prejudice which existed against the game could scarcely be imagined. The favor with which it was regarded may be judged from the observation used by an accidental witness of a game who, after looking for a while, with unfeigned astonishment exclaimed: ‘I can’t see what fun such great, big men can find in hitting a little ball with a big stick and run away like mad, and kick at a sand bag.’

DeWitt Baseball Guide, 1868

Side Issue

A conundrum by Russian puzzle maven Boris Kordemsky:

A work train composed of a locomotive and five cars has just stopped at a railway station when word comes that a passenger train is approaching. The smaller train must make way for it to pass through, but the station has only one siding, and this will accommodate only three cars (or an engine and two cars). How can it arrange to let the passenger train through?

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A Small Start


Europe once had a state whose official language was Esperanto. When boundaries were redrawn after the Napoleonic wars, a dispute arose regarding the border between Prussia and the Netherlands, and a sliver of 3.44 square kilometers became a no man’s land known as Neutral Moresnet. In 1908, German immigrant Wilhelm Molly proposed making the territory into the world’s first Esperanto-speaking state. They rechristened the area Amikejo (literally, “friend-place”) and adopted a national anthem, and the International Esperantist Congress even decided to move its headquarters from The Hague to the new “world capital” of the international language.

But it wasn’t to be. Germany overran the tiny territory as World War I broke out, and it was formally annexed by Belgium in the Treaty of Versailles.

Somewhat related: In 2004 deaf journalist Marvin T. Miller proposed building the “world’s first sign language town,” a community whose common languages would be American Sign Language and written English. Miller chose a site in South Dakota and named it Laurent, after Laurent Clerc, who co-founded the country’s first school for the deaf. But the project appears to have stalled due to lack of funding.

Dangerous Years


Arthur Miller’s first impressions of Marilyn Monroe, on the set of As Young As You Feel, 1950:

We had just arrived on a nightclub set when Marilyn, in a black open-work lace dress, was directed to walk across the floor, attracting the worn gaze of the bearded [Monty] Woolley. She was being shot from the rear to set off the swivelling of her hips, a motion fluid enough to seem comic. It was, in fact, her natural walk: her footprints on a beach would be in a straight line, the heel descending exactly before the last toeprint, throwing her pelvis into motion.

When the shot was finished she came over to [Elia] Kazan, who had met her with [agent Johnny] Hyde on another visit some time before. From where I stood, yards away, I saw her in profile against a white light, with her hair coiled atop her head; she was weeping under a veil of black lace that she lifted now and then to dab her eyes. When we shook hands the shock of her body’s motion sped through me, a sensation at odds with her sadness amid all this glamour and technology and the busy confusion of a new shot being set up. She had been weeping, she would explain later, while telling Kazan that Hyde had died calling her name in a hospital room she had been forbidden by his family to enter. She had heard him from the corridor, and had left, as always, alone.

Flying Fur

loyd cat and dog puzzle

Sam Loyd devised this puzzle for P.T. Barnum:

A trained cat and dog run a race, one hundred feet straight away and return. The dog leaps three feet at each bound and the cat but two, but then she makes three leaps to his two. Now, under those circumstances, what are the possible outcomes of the race?

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“Can This Be Hell?”


Of the 45,000 Union prisoners sent to the Confederate prisoner-of-war camp at Andersonville, Ga., 12,913 died, the victims of starvation, disease, exposure, and abusive guards. Excerpts from the diary of 1st Sgt. John L. Ransom of the Ninth Michigan Cavalry, who was captured in November 1863:

March 14. — Arrived at our destination at last and a dismal hole it is, too. We got off the cars at two o’clock this morning in a cold rain, and were marched into our pen between a strong guard carrying lighted pitch pine knots to prevent our crawling off in the dark. I could hardly walk have been cramped up so long, and feel as if I was a hundred years old. Have stood up ever since we came from the cars, and shivering with the cold. The rain has wet us to the skin and we are worn out and miserable. Nothing to eat to-day, and another dismal night just setting in.

May 19. — Nearly twenty thousand men confined here now. New ones coming every day. Rations very small and very poor. The meal that the bread is made out of is ground, seemingly, cob and all, and it scourges the men fearfully. Things getting continually worse. Hundreds of cases of dropsy. Men puff out of human shape and are perfectly horrible to look at. Philo Lewis died today. Could not have weighed at the time of his death more than ninety pounds, and was originally a large man, weighing not less than one hundred and seventy. Jack Walker, of the 9th Mich. Cavalry, has received the appointment to assist in carrying out the dead, for which service he receives an extra ration of corn bread.

June 8. — More new prisoners. There are now over 23,000 confined here, and the death rate 100 to 130 per day, and I believe more than that. Rations worse.

June 13. — … To-day saw a man with a bullet hole in his head over an inch deep, and you could look down in it and see maggots squirming around at the bottom. Such things are terrible, but of common occurrence. Andersonville seems to be head-quarters for all the little pests that ever originated — flies by the thousand millions.

June 28. — It seems to me as if three times as many as ever before are now going off, still I am told that about one hundred and thirty die per day. The reason it seems worse, is because no sick are being taken out now, and they all die here instead of at the hospital. Can see the dead wagon loaded up with twenty or thirty bodies at a time, two lengths, just like four foot wood is loaded on to a wagon at the North, and away they go to the grave yard on a trot. Perhaps one or two will fall off and get run over. No attention paid to that; they are picked up on the road back after more. Was ever before in this world anything so terrible happening? Many entirely naked.

July 6. — Boiling hot, camp reeking with filth, and no sanitary privileges; men dying off over a hundred and forty per day. Stockade enlarged, taking in eight or ten more acres, giving us more room, and stumps to dig up for wood to cook with. …

July 19. — There is no such thing as delicacy here. Nine out of ten would as soon eat with a corpse for a table as any other way. In the middle of last night I was awakened by being kicked by a dying man. He was soon dead. In his struggles he had floundered clear into our bed. Got up and moved the body off a few feet, and again went to sleep to dream of the hideous sights. I can never get used to it as some do. Often wake most scared to death, and shuddering from head to foot. Almost dread to go to sleep in this account. I am getting worse and worse, and prison ditto.

In September Ransom was removed to a Marine hospital in Savannah, “very sick but by no means dead yet.” On July 10, in the worst of his extremity, he had written, “While I have no reason or desire to swear, I certainly cannot do this prison justice. It’s too stupendous an undertaking. Only those who are here will ever know what Andersonville is.”


“To himself every one is an immortal: he may know that he is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead.” — Samuel Butler

Lattice Work

lattice work grid

Plot five points at random at the intersections of a coordinate grid. Between each pair of points a line segment can be drawn. Prove that the midpoint of at least one of these segments occurs at an intersection of grid lines.

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Ordinarily plowing merely turns over the same old soil year after year, and constant decrease in crops is only prevented by rotation or expensive fertilizing.

With ‘Red Cross’ Dynamite you can break up the ground all over the field to a depth of two or three feet, for less than the cost of adequate fertilizing, and with better results. Fertilizing only improves the top soil. Dynamiting renders available all the moisture and elements of growth throughout the entire depth of the blast.

In an article by J.H. Caldwell, of Spartanburg, S.C., in the September, 1910, Technical World Magazine, he states that before the ground was broken up with dynamite, he planted his corn with stalks 18 inches apart in rows 4 feet apart and raised 90 bushels to the acre. After the ground was blasted, it was able to nourish stalks 6 inches apart in rows the same distance apart, and to produce over 250 bushels to the acre. This means an increase of about 160 bushels to the acre, every year, for an original expense of $40 an acre for labor and explosives.

F.G. Moughon, of Walton County, Georgia, reports that he has been raising crops of watermelons, weighing from 50 to 60 pounds each, on land blasted by exploding charges of about 3 ounces of dynamite in holes 2-½ to 3 feet deep, spaced 8 to 10 feet apart.

– From Farming With Dynamite, published by the E.I. du Pont de Nemours Powder Co., 1910

“The Poet’s Reply”

What’s unusual about this poem, composed by James Rambo for Word Ways, May 1977?

Use fulsome howl or direst word in galling us; toil over a shoddy ode?
Listen, dressed in gyves, tiger, allies fall, ensnared in timeless eras, mentally in agony, essays in gall.
Outwit Hades, ignore verses, you real lover? Come!

Useful somehow, Lord, I rest, wording all in gusto I love.
Rash odd yodel is tendresse; dingy vestige rallies fallen snared.
In time, lesser as men tally, I nag on — yes, say, sing all out — with a design.
O reverses, you’re all overcome!

The two stanzas are spelled identically.