An Epigrammatic Puzzle

Nokes went, he thought, to Styles’s wife to bed,
Nor knew his own was laid there in her stead;
Civilian, is the child then begot
To be allow’d legitimate or not?

Bon Ton Magazine, July 1794

Diamond Verses

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Masaoka_Shiki.jpg

Masaoka Shiki, the fourth of Japan’s great haiku masters, is a member of the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. Described as “baseball mad,” Shiki first encountered the game in preparatory school in 1884, only 12 years after American teacher Horace Wilson first introduced it to his students at Tokyo University in 1872. Shiki wrote nine baseball haiku, the first in 1890, making him the first Japanese writer to use the game as a literary subject:

spring breeze
this grassy field makes me
want to play catch

like young cats
still ignorant of love
we play with a ball

the trick
to ball catching
the willow in a breeze

Throughout his career Shiki wrote essays, fiction, and poetry about the game, and he made translations of baseball terms that are still in use today. Eventually he taught the game to Kawahigashi Hekigotō and Takahama Kyoshi, who themselves became famous haiku poets under his tutelage, and today a baseball field near Bunka Kaikan in Ueno bears his name. He wrote:

under a faraway sky
the people of America
began baseball
I can watch it
forever

In a Word

http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/wea00226.htm

oragious
adj. stormy

tenebrific
adj. producing darkness

Above: From the NOAA photo library, “The awesome power of a tornado demonstrated — a 33rpm plastic record blown into a telephone pole.” See Freaks of the Storm and Mean Winds.

Thought That Counts

Chris Maslanka devised this brainteaser for the Gathering for Gardner held in Atlanta in April 2004:

A bouquet contains red roses, whites roses, and blue roses. The total number of red roses and white roses is 100; the total number of white roses and blue roses is 53; and the total number of blue roses and red roses is less than that.

How many roses of each color are there?

Click for Answer

At Work

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dickensdream.jpg

During our life at Tavistock House [1851-60], I had a long and serious illness, with an almost equally long convalescence. During the latter, my father suggested that I should be carried every day into his study to remain with him, and, although I was fearful of disturbing him, he assured me that he desired to have me with him. On one of these mornings, I was lying on the sofa endeavouring to keep perfectly quiet, while my father wrote busily and rapidly at his desk, when he suddenly jumped from his chair and rushed to a mirror which hung near, and in which I could see the reflection of some extraordinary facial contortions which he was making. He returned rapidly to his desk, wrote furiously for a few moments, and then went again to the mirror. The facial pantomime was resumed, and then turning toward, but evidently not seeing, me, he began talking rapidly in a low voice. Ceasing this soon, however, he returned once more to his desk, where he remained silently writing until luncheon time. It was a most curious experience for me, and one of which, I did not until later years, fully appreciate the purport. Then I knew that with his natural intensity he had thrown himself completely into the character that he was creating, and that for the time being he had not only lost sight of his surroundings, but had actually become in action, as in imagination, the creature of his pen.

— Mary Dickens, Charles Dickens by His Eldest Daughter, 1885

Bounce Check

https://www.google.com/patents/US721677

Speaking of ship strandings, Charles Dornfeld offered this novel solution in 1902. Each steamship would be fitted with a giant spring-loaded plunger; if the ship strikes a solid object, the plunger will cushion its stop and automatically reverse the engines, sending the ship backward out of danger.

“As soon as she is backed off the springs 10 and 16 restore the plunger 8 and head 15 to their normal positions ready for like service upon the next occasion.”

Looking Up

Planetary economy will be a determining factor in the change of diet which the coming century must inevitably witness. Such a wasteful food as animal flesh cannot survive: and even apart from the moral necessity which will compel mankind, for its own preservation, to abandon the use of alcohol, the direct and indirect wastefulness of alcohol will make it impossible for beverages containing it to be tolerated. Very likely tobacco will follow it.

— T. Baron Russell, A Hundred Years Hence, 1905

Piggyback

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Two_Avro_Ansons_(L9162_and_N4876)_%22piggyback%22_in_a_paddock_near_Brocklesby_2.jpg

On Sept. 29, 1940, two Avro Anson training aircraft took off from a Royal Australian Air Force base near Wagga Wagga for a cross-country exercise over New South Wales. They were making a banking turn over Brocklesby when pilot Leonard Fuller lost sight of Jack Hewson’s plane beneath him, and the two collided with a “grinding crunch of metal and tearing of fabric.”

To his horror, Fuller found that the planes were now locked together. His own engines had been knocked out by the collision, but Hewson’s were still functioning, and he could still manipulate his own ailerons and flaps, so he found he could control the lumbering pair as one aircraft.

After the crew of the lower plane had bailed out, along with his own navigator, Fuller flew an additional five miles and made an emergency landing in a paddock, where he slid 200 yards to a safe stop. “I did everything we’ve been told to do in a forced landing,” he told air accident inspector Arthur Murphy. “Land as close as possible to habitation or a farmhouse and, if possible, land into the wind. I did all that. There’s the farmhouse, and I did a couple of circuits and landed into the wind. She was pretty heavy on the controls, though.”

Fuller was credited with saving £40,000 worth of military hardware and preventing any damage or injury in Brocklesby, and his plane was even returned to service. He died four years later in a road accident.

Foot Work

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AdeleFred1921.jpg

“When you come to the evolution of the dance, its history and philosophy, I know as much about that as I do about how a television tube produces a picture — which is absolutely nothing. I don’t know how it all started and I don’t want to know. I have no desire to prove anything by it. I have never used it as an outlet or as a means of expressing myself. I just dance.” — Fred Astaire

High and Dry

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Claude-Joseph_Vernet_-_A_Storm_on_a_Mediterranean_Coast_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

In 1859, Irish priest Edward James Cordner reflected that most strandings of sailing vessels occurred on a lee shore; that is, the wind was blowing inland from the vessel’s location. This gave him an inspired idea: If the ship carried a selection of kites, these could be attached one to another and payed out until they sailed steadily over the land, and the line might then support a sort of gondola that could ferry crew and cargo to safety.

When a sufficient power of elevation and traction has been attained, a light boat of basketwork or other material, capable of containing one or more persons, is attached to the suspending rope of the last kite, more rope is then veered away and the light boat with its cargo will eventually reach the land without any chance of its being submerged in the sea, no matter how great may be the elevation of the waves.

It’s not known whether Cordner’s idea was ever adopted, but he does seem to have tried it out: In his 1894 Progress in Flying Machines, Octave Chanute reports that “it was tested by transporting a number of persons purposely assembled on a rock off the Irish coast, one at a time, through the air to the main land, quite above the waves, and it was claimed that the invention of thus superposing kites so as to obtain great tractive power was applicable to various other purposes, such as towing vessels, etc.”

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