Thirsty Work


As the series developed, readers came to expect an ever more extensive drinks menu. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, for example, the eleventh book, Bond downs no less than forty-six drinks, the widest variety in any single book. According to one Bondologist, these include: unspecified quantities of Pouilly-Fuissé white wine, Taittinger champagne, Mouton Rothschild ’53 claret, calvados, Krug champagne, three bourbons with water, four vodka and tonics, two double brandy and ginger ales, two whisky and sodas, three double vodka martinis, two double bourbons on the rocks, at least one glass of neat whisky, a flask of Enzian schnapps, Marsala wine, the better part of a bottle of fiery Algerian wine (served by M), two more Scotch whiskies, half a pint of I.W. Harper bourbon, a Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whisky with water, on the rocks, a bottle of Riquewihr wine, four steins of Franziskaner beer, and a double Steinhäger gin. The same indefatigable researcher has found that although vodka martini has now become Bond’s signature drink, he only drinks nineteen of them in the books, compared to thirty-seven bourbons, twenty-one Scotches and a remarkable thirty-five sakes (entirely the result of his massive consumption of that particular drink in You Only Live Twice).

— Ben MacIntyre, For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond, 2008

“An Aeronaut to His Love”

In Patterns of Poetry (1986), Miller Williams writes, “Fourteen words have rarely done such duty as in the following sonnet, which differs from the traditional form only in not having ten syllables per line and in the combining of the Italian octave and the Shakespearean sestet”:


— Anonymous

A Chess Maze

wurzburg chess puzzle

By O. Wurzburg, 1919. If Black does not move at all, in how few moves can the white king reach f4? White can move only his king; as in regular play, it can capture enemy pieces but cannot enter check.

Click for Answer

Near and Far

More proverbs from around the world:

  • A lover should be regarded as a person demented. (Roman)
  • Great politeness means “I want something.” (Chinese)
  • Large desire is endless poverty. (India)
  • A short rest is always good. (Danish)
  • A stumble is not a fall. (Haitian)
  • Abroad one has a hundred eyes, at home not one. (German)
  • The church is near, but the way is icy; the tavern is far, but I will walk carefully. (Ukrainian)
  • A bully is always a coward. (Spanish)
  • Failure is the source of success. (Japanese)
  • The greater part of humankind is bad. (Greek)
  • The inside is different from the outside. (Korean)
  • You are as many a person as languages you know. (Armenian)
  • By getting angry, you show you are wrong. (Madagascar)
  • Life is a road with a lot of signs. (Jamaican)
  • Old age does not announce itself. (Zulu)
  • Whether small or large, a snake cannot be used as a belt. (Yoruban)
  • He that is too smart is surely done for. (Yiddish)

Podcast Episode 79: One Square Inch of the Yukon

If you opened a box of Quaker Oats in 1955, you’d find a deed to one square inch of land in northwestern Canada. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story behind the Klondike Big Inch land giveaway, whose bizarre consequences are still being felt today.

We’ll also hear about a time traveler who visited the British Museum in 1997 and puzzle over why a prizewinning farmer gives away his best seed to his competitors.

Sources for our feature on the Klondike Big Inch land promotion:

Jack McIver, “The Great Klondike Big Inch Land Caper,” Ottawa Citizen, March 27, 1975.

“The Great Klondike Rush of ’55,” Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 8, 1955.

“Sgt. Preston Inspired Great Yukon Land Deals,” Reading (Pa.) Eagle, Jan. 1, 1987.

Dave White, “Quaker Oats Klondike Deed Scam Still Sizzling,” Yukon News, Jan. 26, 1990.

“Cereal Giveaway Now a Pain,” Montreal Gazette, May 12, 1971.

“The Klondike Big Inch,” yukoninfo, accessed 10/23/2015.

John Robert Colombo, Canadian Literary Landmarks, 1984.

Big Inch deeds can sometimes be found on eBay — here are two that sold in March.

Sources for our feature on Enoch Soames, time travel, and literary memory:

Max Beerbohm, “Enoch Soames: A Memory of the Eighteen-Nineties,” 1916.

Teller, “A Memory of the Nineteen-Nineties,” Atlantic, November 1997.

Chris Jones, “The Honor System,” Esquire, October 2012.

The Flickr photo of Soames is here, and there’s a bit more background here. 10/27/2015 UPDATE: Listener Steve Winters has found another photo (about midway down the page). (Thanks, Steve.)

This week’s lateral thinking puzzles are from Paul Sloane and Des MacHale’s 1996 book Intriguing Lateral Thinking Puzzles.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or via the RSS feed at

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. You can change or cancel your pledge at any time, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support.

You can also make a one-time donation via the Donate button in the sidebar of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at Thanks for listening!


“I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so.” — Stephen Leacock

Out With a Bang

Raymond Richards had a peculiar notion of safety — his fire alarm, patented in 1966, consisted of a string of firecrackers:

[I]t is proposed to provide an elongated tube having a plurality of spaced firecrackers disposed in its bore, each firecracker having its own fuse located in proximity to a main fuse, the latter extending longitudinally through the bore of the tube, with its opposite ends being exposed for being ignited by an adjacent fire.

The tube of firecrackers would be pinned to a drape, and caps on the tube would discourage children from playing with it. What could go wrong?

Quick Thinking

Some “ridiculous questions” from Martin Gardner:

1. A convex regular polyhedron can stand stably on any face, because its center of gravity is at the center. It’s easy to construct an irregular polyhedron that’s unstable on certain faces, so that it topples over. Is it possible to make a model of an irregular polyhedron that’s unstable on every face?

2. The center of a regular tetrahedron lies in the same plane with any two of its corner points. Is this also true of all irregular tetrahedrons?

3. An equilateral triangle and a regular hexagon have perimeters of the same length. If the area of the triangle is 2 square units, what is the area of the hexagon?

Click for Answer

The Last Prisoner

After Robert E. Lee formally surrendered to Ulysses Grant in the parlor of Virginia grocer Wilmer McLean, relic hunters descended on the house. “Large sums were offered Major Wilmer S. McLean for the chairs in which the generals sat during the meeting — for the tables on which the writing was done — for substantially every article of furniture,” wrote correspondent Sylvanus Cadwallader. Many souvenirs were taken without McLean’s permission — including the rag doll belonging to his 8-year-old daughter, Lula, “which the younger officers tossed from one to the other, and called the ‘silent witness.'”

In a 1951 Saturday Evening Post article, “The Lost Rag Doll of Appomattox,” Dorothy Kunhardt wrote, “Eighty-six years ago a little girl lost her rag doll. It was a very much hugged and slept with and beloved rag doll, homemade; no china head and kid-glove fingers and lacy dress, but stumpy burlap arms and legs, clothes assembled from the family rag bag and a small, potato-shaped head with not much stuffing on it.”

Philip Sheridan’s aide-de-camp Thomas William Channing Moore took the doll home with him to New York, and it was passed down within his family for 128 years. Finally, in 1993, when Moore’s grandson Richard died, his wife called the Appomattox park authorities to say that they were ready to return it. “The men in our family never wanted to give her up,” Marjorie Moore said. “The women thought Appomattox would be the best place for her.”

The doll resides today in the Appomattox visitors’ center, but perhaps that’s too late to redress the harm. Years earlier, after ranger Cynda Carpenter had told the story to one group of visitors, an older woman approached her and identified herself as Lula McLean’s great-granddaughter. “She said that Lula never got over the hurt caused by the loss of her doll,” she said. “She said that Lula told her, ‘The Yankees stole my doll.'”

What’s the Angle?

what's the angle puzzle

AB = XY. Find z°.

Click for Answer
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