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“Why can’t somebody give us a list of things that everybody thinks and nobody says, and another list of things that everybody says and nobody thinks?” — Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

“Isn’t it strange that we talk least about the things we think about most!” — Charles Lindbergh

Podcast: Episode 3

In 1926, a woman named Lillian Alling grew disenchanted with her life as a maid in New York City and resolved to return to her native Russia. She lacked the funds to sail east, so instead she walked west — trekking 6,000 miles alone across the breadth of Canada and into Alaska. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll consider Alling’s lonely, determined journey, compare it to the efforts of other long-distance pedestrians, and suggest a tool to plot your own virtual journey across the United States.

We’ll also learn the truth about the balloon-borne messenger dogs of 1870 Paris, ponder the significance of October 4 to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and offer a chance to win a book in the next Futility Closet Challenge.

You can listen using the player above, or subscribe on iTunes or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset. The show notes are on the blog, where you can also enter your submissions in this week’s Challenge. Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

Next week we plan to discuss the strange wave of airship sightings that swept the western U.S. in 1896. If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Neighborly

Located in Texas’ northwest corner, the town of Dalhart is closer to six other state capitals than to Texas’ own capital, Austin.

As the crow flies, Dalhart is 201 miles from Santa Fe, 281 miles from Oklahoma City, 289 miles from Denver, 375 miles from Cheyenne, 434 miles from Topeka, and 458 miles from Lincoln, but 491 miles from Austin.

In driving distance, it’s 263 miles from Santa Fe, 343 miles from Oklahoma City, 348 miles from Denver, 448 miles from Cheyenne, 461 miles from Topeka, and 540 miles from Lincoln, but 579 miles from Austin.

False Alarm

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I’ve had some incredible experiences with lyrebirds of late in Sydney’s southwest. Recently on the Old Ford Road, Kentlyn, I observed a male in full display on his mound, going through a repertoire of vocal impressions that would have put Peter Sellers to shame. Among the imitations I recognised were kookaburra, currawong, butcherbird, cockatoo and even a small dog. But my most startling experience was last Christmas morning, about 7 a.m. From a group of three or four lyrebirds arose a distinct call of ‘Fire! Fire!’ It seems that one bird must have overheard this cry on some earlier danger-fraught occasion. Or, as the far side of the Georges River is Defence Department territory, maybe it picked it up during military training.

– Frederick Hill, “Members’ Mailbag,” Australian Geographic, July-September 2005

In a Word

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jubate
adj. having a mane

Oliver Herford said that at the New York Public Library one “learned the meaning of the expression ‘reading between the lions.’”

Young American

Thomas Jefferson received the following letter on July 31, 1806:

To his Excelency Thomas Jefferson Esq.

Sir.

It is A Boy of 15 years Old Address to You the following lines. I feel A Strong regard for my Country’s welfair.

I think if I had A been Presendent at the time them opposen Set of People (I allude to the Brittish) appeared before Newyork I Should A been for rasing all the Naval force in the United States and opposed thire proceeding’s. My Father is an Englishman Born. Ever Sence I had an knowledge of Nation affaires I dispised them tirents as there are. I often read of the American War. I fear they Never will Come hear Again. I think if they Should I take up armes boy as I am in my Country’s Defence. If every one was as true to thier Country as me I think the Contest last war would not of been of so long Duration. Conquer or Die is my Wash Word.

A True American though a Youth

Huza to the Constetuon
Huza to the Repubeck
Huza Fredom Independence
Huza to all America.
PS. Sir Excuse the spelling.

“Opus 34″

A magic square by Lee Sallows. The 16 pieces progress in area from 1 to 16, and those in each row, column, and long diagonal can be assembled to form the same target shape with area 34.

Science, Fiction

Inspired by Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, marine engineer Simon Lake devoted himself to making a working practical submarine. In 1898, when his company built the first sub to operate successfully in the open sea, Verne sent a congratulatory telegram:

WHILE MY BOOK ‘TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA’ IS ENTIRELY A WORK OF IMAGINATION, MY CONVICTION IS THAT ALL I SAID IN IT WILL COME TO PASS. A THOUSAND MILE VOYAGE IN THE BALTIMORE SUBMARINE BOAT IS EVIDENCE OF THIS. THIS CONSPICUOUS SUCCESS OF SUBMARINE NAVIGATION IN THE UNITED STATES WILL PUSH ON UNDER-WATER NAVIGATION ALL OVER THE WORLD. IF SUCH A SUCCESSFUL TEST HAD COME A FEW MONTHS EARLIER IT MIGHT HAVE PLAYED A GREAT PART IN THE WAR JUST CLOSED. THE NEXT GREAT WAR MAY BE LARGELY A CONTEST BETWEEN SUBMARINE BOATS.

Bonus fact: The “20,000 leagues” in Verne’s title refers to the distance of the Nautilus’ voyage, not its depth. The sea is only about 2 miles deep; 20,000 leagues is nearly 70,000 miles.

In a Word

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immiserization
n. the act of making or becoming progressively more miserable

luctiferous
adj. bringing sorrow, mournful, gloomy

Carry On

Letter to the Times, Feb. 6, 1946:

Sir,

I have just written you a long letter.

On reading it over, I have thrown it into the waste paper basket.

Hoping this will meet with your approval,

I am, Sir,

Your obedient Servant,

A.D. Wintle

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