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In a Word

adaemonist
n. one who denies the existence of the devil

devilshine
n. demonic power or skill

Ronald Knox wrote, “It is stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil, when he is the only explanation of it.”

Ready Made

In 1923 the Acme Code Company published a list of “phrase codes” for use in telegrams — customers could save money by substituting a five-letter code for a longer phrase in their messages. The list of codes was charmingly comprehensive:

BIINC What appliances have you for lifting heavy machinery?

URPXO For what use was the mixing machine intended?

CHOOG lard, in bladders

GAHGU cod-liver oil

GNUEK rubber, slightly moldy

HEHST clammy condition

ZOKIX unhealthy trees

ARPUK The person is an adventurer …

BUKSI Avoid arrest if possible

NARVO Do not part with the documents

OBYNX Escape at once

CULKE Bad as possibly can be

LYADI Arrived here with decks swept … encountered a hurricane

PYTUO Collided with an iceberg

YBDIG Plundered by natives

Similarly, George Holland Ackers’ Universal Yacht Signals (1847) includes signals for “Can I have … quarts of turtle soup?”, “Marmalade — orange unless specified,” and “I can strongly recommend my washerwoman.”

In Film Facts (2001), Patrick Robertson notes that Central Casting installed a Hollerith computer in 1935 to help with the casting of extras in Hollywood films. This meant subdividing humanity into tidy categories — lawyers, for instance, were classed as Shrewd, Dixie, Hawk-faced, Inquisitor and Benevolent. “When the new system was unveiled before the press, the operator was asked to produce ten Englishmen, 6ft tall, blue-eyed, possessed of full evening dress, and able to play polo. The cards of all 600 male dress extras were run through the machine to reveal that there were only two such paragons on the books of Central Casting.”

See Enjoy Your Stay.

Higher Things

http://www.bnl.gov/newsroom/news.php?a=1301

In 1966 a Swedish encyclopedia publisher requested a photograph of Richard Feynman “beating a drum” to give “a human approach to a presentation of the difficult matter that theoretical physics represents.” Feynman responded:

Dear Sir,

The fact that I beat a drum has nothing to do with the fact that I do theoretical physics. Theoretical physics is a human endeavor, one of the higher developments of human beings, and the perpetual desire to prove that people who do it are human by showing that they do other things that a few other human beings do (like playing bongo drums) is insulting to me.

I am human enough to tell you to go to hell.

Yours,

RPF

Special Delivery

https://www.google.com/patents/US3698121

Gerald Nordeen’s “fishing apparatus,” patented in 1972, eliminates all the tedious fighting that goes with a conventional rod and reel. When he gets a bite, the fisherman simply opens a valve in the rod handle and pressurized gas runs through the hollow fishing line to inflate a balloon attached to the float.

“Due to the lift of the balloon the entire float assembly will be lifted out of the water and into the air, urging the catch, if one is on the hook, toward the top of the water. The fisherman may then reel in his catch.”

Missed Connections

“On Planning a Visit to Late, a Volcanic Island Southwest of Tonga, With the Author of The Blue Star (Tom Early) and Lotte Lenya”

Lotte came early,
But Early came to Late too early,
& I came to Late too late.

Lotte
Left Late & Early early.
So I called my late trip to Late off

Quite early.

– Louis Phillips

The Football Charge

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Going_over_the_top_01.jpg

On July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, British Army captain Wilfred Nevill needed a way to keep the East Surrey Regiment’s B Company organized and advancing toward the German trenches. He had been told that continuous shelling had left nothing alive in the German lines, but night patrols had shown him this wasn’t true.

So Nevill produced four footballs, one for each of his platoons to kick across no man’s land as they charged the German position.

Private L.S. Price of the 8th Royal Sussex, who was looking on, recalled, “As the gunfire died away I saw an infantryman climb onto the parapet into no man’s land, beckoning others to follow. As he did so he kicked off a football; a good kick, the ball rose and travelled well towards the German line. That seemed to be the signal to advance.”

The four platoons followed suit, kicking their balls continuously across 300 yards of ground to reach the German trenches. Twenty thousand British soldiers were killed that day, including Nevill, who was shot when they reached the barbed wire, but his company gained its objective. The Daily Mail commemorated their charge with a poem:

On through the hail of slaughter,
Where gallant comrades fall,
Where blood is poured like water,
They drive the trickling ball.
The fear of death before them
Is but an empty name;
True to the land that bore them,
The Surreys played the game.

Two of the footballs have been recovered. One is in the National Army Museum, the other at the Queen’s Regiment Museum, Howe Barracks, Canterbury.

Dog Tired

Another puzzle by Boris Kordemsky: Jack London tells of racing from Skagway, Alaska, to a camp where a friend lay dying. London drove a sled pulled by five huskies, which pulled the sled at full speed for 24 hours. But then two dogs ran off with a pack of wolves. Left with three dogs and slowed down proportionally, London reached the camp 48 hours later than he had planned. If the two lost huskies had remained in harness for 50 more miles, he would have been only 24 hours late. How far is the camp from Skagway?

Click for Answer

Single Cases

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Les_Joueurs_de_cartes.JPG

If we roll a fair die an infinite number of times, the outcome 4 occurs in 1/6 of the cases. In this light we can say that the probability of rolling a 4 with this die is 1/6. But suppose that, instead of repeating the experiment forever, we roll the die only once. Now it still seems natural to say that there’s a 1/6 chance of rolling a 4, but in fact either we’ll roll a 4 … or we won’t. Can it make sense to assign a probability to a single outcome? Charles Sanders Peirce writes:

If a man had to choose between drawing a card from a pack containing twenty-five red cards and a black one, or from a pack containing twenty-five black cards and a red one, and if the drawing of a red card were destined to transport him to eternal felicity, and that of a black one to consign him to everlasting woe, it would be folly to deny that he ought to prefer the pack containing the larger proportion of red cards, although, from the nature of the risk, it could not be repeated. It is not easy to reconcile this with our analysis of the conception of chance. But suppose he should choose the red pack, and should draw the wrong card, what consolation would he have? He might say that he had acted in accordance with reason, but that would only show that his reason was absolutely worthless. And if he should choose the right card, how could he regard it as anything but a happy accident? He could not say that if he had drawn from the other pack, he might have drawn the wrong one, because an hypothetical proposition such as, ‘if A, then B,’ means nothing with reference to a single case.

Peirce’s solution to this problem is curiously humanistic. Our inferences must extend to include the interests of all races in all epochs. A soldier storms a fort knowing that he may die but that his zeal, if carried through the regiment, will win the day. The man trying to draw a red card “cannot be logical so long as he is concerned only with his own fate” but “should care equally for what was to happen in all possible cases … and would draw from the pack with the most red cards.”

“He who would not sacrifice his own soul to save the whole world, is, as it seems to me, illogical in all his inferences, collectively.”

A Living Casualty

On Feb. 1, 1918, a French soldier appeared in the railway station in Lyon. He had lost his memory: He muttered that his name was Anthelme Mangin, but he didn’t know who he was or where he belonged. His uniform lacked unit tags, and his pockets held only a cigarette lighter. The authorities placed him in an asylum and published his photograph in newspapers, hoping that his family would recognize him.

This gave desperate hope to scores of families whose loved ones had disappeared. World War I had claimed the lives of 1.4 million Frenchmen, and 300,000 of their bodies were unidentified or never found. Three hundred families claimed Mangin as their own, and dozens of these were given personal interviews with him. But he responded to none of them.

In 1930 he was identified tentatively as Octave Monjoin, a French waiter in the London embassy of the Ottoman State who had returned to his homeland to fight and been taken prisoner on the western front in August 1914. Judicial officers dropped him off near Monjoin’s hometown and observed him from a distance. He went from the railway station to the village, sat in a café that Monjoin had once enjoyed, walked to the house of Monjoin’s father, whom he did not recognize, and said, “The church has changed.”

But others, who had different hopes for Mangin’s identity, refused to accept the validity of the test, and Mangin remained in official limbo until his death in a French mental institution in 1942 — in the midst of another wrenching war.

Unquote

“I maintain that there is no common language or medium of understanding between people of education and without it — between those who judge of things from books or from their senses. Ignorance has so far the advantage over learning; for it can make an appeal to you from what you know; but you cannot re-act upon it through that which it is a perfect stranger to. Ignorance is, therefore, power.” — William Hazlitt

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