In a Word

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

exulant
adj. living in exile

Homeless, exiled, I climb Sin-Ping tower.
It is late on in the dying year,
The sun is declining in the sky
And the dark river runs gloomy and slow.

A cloud moves across the forests on the mountain;
Wild geese fly off down the river.
Up here I can see for ten thousand miles,
But I do not see the end of my sorrows.

— Li Po, banished from the Chinese capital, circa 757

Admittance

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/380514

After observing security measures at a number of organizations, University of California psychologist Robert Sommer reflected that a person’s status seems to be tied to his keyring:

key status formula

S is a person’s status within the organization, D is the number of doors he must open to perform his job, and K is the number of keys he carries. A janitor who can open 20 doors but must carry 20 keys has a status of 1; he’s outranked by a secretary who can open only two doors but can do it with a single key. A staff scientist who can open six doors or cupboards using two keys has status 3, and the lab director might open 15 doors with three keys, giving him a status score of 5.

They’re all outranked by the president of the company, who never has to carry keys at all, since there’s always someone around to open doors for him. “With a K of zero and a high D,” Sommer concluded wryly, “his status rank in the company reaches infinity.”

(“Keys, Kings and Kompanies,” from The Worm Runner’s Digest 3:1 [March 1961], 52-54)

Lightning Tourism

It’s possible to visit all six New England states in a single afternoon. The Big E, the region’s annual exposition, features an Avenue of States that includes a replica of each state’s original statehouse. Like an embassy, each building and the land on which it stands is owned by the state it represents, so Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont are all present on the same street.

This arrangement permits each house to sell lottery tickets, so it’s possible to enter six state lotteries at the same time.

Inconspicuous

http://www.google.com/patents/US5197216

Patented in 1993, Raymond Norris’ “combined camouflage and decoy device” is pretty straightforward: You wear a cap that supports an artificial head (to attract birds) and a cape (to hide you from them).

Just hope it doesn’t attract giant geese.

Coda

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

Vaslav Nijinsky spent the last years of his life in a Zurich asylum. After returning from an American tour in 1917, he retreated to Switzerland, where his wife began to notice disturbing changes in his behavior. He grew impulsive, took long walks alone, and wrote obsessively in a diary:

I am feeling through the flesh and not through the intellect. I am the flesh. I am the feeling. I am God in flesh and feeling. I am man and not God. I am simple. I need not think. I must make myself felt and understood through feeling. Scientists think about me and break their heads, but their thinking will not give any results. They are stupid. I speak simply without any tricks.

The world was made by God. Man was made by God. It is impossible for man to understand God, but God understands God. Man is part of God and therefore sometimes understands God. I am both God and man. I am good and not a beast. I am an animal with a mind. I am flesh but I do come from flesh. God made flesh. I am God. I am God. I am God. …

Finally psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler pronounced him insane. “I retired into myself,” Nijinsky said. “I retired so far that I could no longer understand people.”

Backstroke

swims symmetry

SWIMS is rotationally symmetric — it reads the same right side up and upside down.

(Thanks, Chris.)

Headstones

http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=97467

Before his death in 1923, Curtis Lloyd erected an enormous granite monument to himself in the Kentucky woods. One side reads:

CURTIS G. LLOYD BORN 1859 — DIED 60 OR MORE YEARS AFTERWARDS. THE EXACT NUMBER OF YEARS, MONTHS AND DAYS THAT HE LIVED NOBODY KNOWS AND NOBODY CARES.

The other side reads:

CURTIS G. LLOYD MONUMENT ERECTED IN 1922 BY HIMSELF FOR HIMSELF DURING HIS LIFE TO GRATIFY HIS OWN VANITY. WHAT FOOLS THESE MORTALS BE!

World War I ended at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. Each year at that moment, sunlight shining through the window of the Canadian War Museum illuminates the headstone of Canada’s Unknown Soldier.

In Gray, Maine, is a tombstone reading:

STRANGER — A SOLDIER OF THE LATE WAR. DIED 1862. ERECTED BY THE LADIES OF GRAY.

Lt. Charles Colley of the 10th Maine Volunteers had died that September at Alexandria, Va., and his parents had paid to have his remains embalmed and transported home. When they opened the casket, they found the body of a uniformed Confederate soldier. After some consternation the town interred him, and it commemorates the unknown soldier each Memorial Day. (Colley’s body arrived a week later and is buried 100 feet away.)

An epitaph in Keesville, N.Y., quoted in John R. Kippax, Churchyard Literature, 1876:

HERE LIES A MAN OF GOOD REPUTE,
WHO WORE A NO. 16 BOOT.
‘TIS NOT RECORDED HOW HE DIED,
BUT SURE IT IS, THAT OPEN WIDE,
THE GATES OF HEAVEN MUST HAVE BEEN
TO LET SUCH MONSTROUS FEET WITHIN.

Charles Wallis’ Stories on Stone records the epitaph of Dr. Fred Roberts in Pine Log Cemetery, Brookland, Ark.:

OFFICE UP STAIRS.

An epitaph on a trout, near a pond in Blockley, England:

IN
MEMORY
OF THE
OLD FISH.
UNDER THE SOIL
THE OLD FISH DO LIE
20 YEARS HE LIVED
AND THEN DID DIE.
HE WAS SO TAME
YOU UNDERSTAND
HE WOULD COME AND
EAT OUT OF OUR HAND.
DIED APRIL 20, 1855.
AGED 20 YEARS.

Below: The German word for cobblestone translates literally as “headstone” — so artist Timm Ulrichs offered this “cobblestone” pavement:

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Timm_Ulrichs_Kopf-Stein_Pflaster_Hannover.jpg

(Thanks, Zach.)

Oops

PARISEAU, N. De, born in 1753; a celebrated victim of the ‘mistakes’ of the guillotine. Pariseau was director of the opera ballets at Paris, and ardently espoused the cause of the revolution in ‘La Feuille du Jour.’ He was arrested by the Revolutionary Tribunal in 1793, and beheaded by mistake, instead of Parisot, a captain of the king’s guard.

The Biographical Treasury, 1847

A Knotty Problem

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Granny_knot.svg

In a 2002 article in Nature, Australian mathematician Burkard Polster concluded that most of us are doing a pretty good job lacing our shoes: “No matter whether you prefer to lace them straight or criss-crossed, you come close to maximizing the total horizontal tension when you pull on the two ends of one of your shoelaces.”

When it comes to tying them, though, we don’t do so well. “A very large number of people, possibly even the majority, do tie their shoe laces much worse than the rest,” Polster wrote in his 2006 book-length followup, The Shoelace Book. Most of us tie a shoe by placing one half-granny knot on top of another, but this can produce either a very unstable granny knot (left) or a very stable reef knot (right), depending on whether the two half-knots have the same or opposite orientation. (It’s not essential that the second half-granny is typically tied with loops; these are omitted in the diagrams.)

“Hundreds of years of trial and error have led to the strongest way of lacing our shoes,” Polster wrote in Nature, “but unfortunately the same cannot be said about the way in which most of us tie our shoelaces — with a granny knot.”

(Burkard Polster, “What is the best way to lace your shoes?” Nature 2002: 476.)

Unquote

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henri_Rousseau_-_Il_sogno.jpg

“In dreams I do not recollect that state of feeling so common when awake, of thinking of one subject and looking at another.” — Coleridge

“In dreams you sometimes fall from a height, or are stabbed, or beaten, but you never feel pain.” — Dostoevsky

“In a dream you are never eighty.” — Anne Sexton

“The waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own.” — Heraclitus