Target Practice,_K%C3%A1roly_-_Archers_(1911).jpg

An arrow has a 1/4 chance of hitting its target. If four arrows are shot at one target, what’s the chance that the target will be hit?

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Here’s a checkerboard. Suppose we put a checker on each of the nine squares in the lower left corner. And suppose that any checker can move in any direction by jumping over an adjacent checker, provided that the square beyond it is vacant. Is there some combination of moves by which we can transfer the nine checkers to the nine squares in the upper left corner of the board?

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For myself, I must say that I find [Edward] Lear funniest when he is least arbitrary and when a touch of burlesque or perverted logic makes its appearance. … While the Pobble was in the water some unidentified creatures came and ate his toes off, and when he got home his aunt remarked:

‘It’s a fact the whole world knows,
That Pobbles are happier without their toes,’

which once again is funny because it has a meaning, and one might even say a political significance. For the whole theory of authoritarian governments is summed up in the statement that Pobbles were happier without their toes.

— George Orwell, “Nonsense Poetry,” 1945

Shop Talk

An odd little item from the New Zealand Police Gazette, Sept. 20, 1893:

Christchurch. — William Strange and Co. report that between the 2nd and 4th instant their premises were broken into, and a determined but unsuccessful attempt made to break open the safe, the words ‘No time and little room; bad luck’ being written thereon with a piece of candle by the offenders. Nothing stolen.

The Strand reported that the photograph was “taken by a burglar, and subsequently sent to the makers of the safe that resisted his efforts.”


Marjory Fleming (1803-1811) composed this uniquely terrible poem at age 8:

Three Turkeys fair their last have breathed,
And now this world for ever leaved,
Their Father and their Mother too,
Will sign and weep as well as you,
Mourning for their offspring fair,
Whom they did nurse with tender care.
Indeed the rats their bones have crunch’d,
To eternity are they launch’d;
Their graceful form and pretty eyes
Their fellow fowls did not despise,
A direful death indeed they had,
That would put any parent mad,
But she was more than usual calm
She did not give a single dam.
Here ends this melancholy lay:
Farewell poor Turkeys I must say.

See Precocious and “A Sonnet on a Monkey.”

Chronological Order

By Lee Sallows: If the letters BJFGSDNRMLATPHOCIYVEU are assigned to the integers -10 to 10, then:

J+A+N+U+A+R+Y     = -9+0-4+10+0-3+7     =  1
F+E+B+R+U+A+R+Y   = -8+9-10-3+10+0-3+7  =  2
M+A+R+C+H         = -2+0-3+5+3          =  3
A+P+R+I+L         = 0+2-3+6-1           =  4
M+A+Y             = -2+0+7              =  5
J+U+N+E           = -9+10-4+9           =  6
J+U+L+Y           = -9+10-1+7           =  7
A+U+G+U+S+T       = 0+10-7+10-6+1       =  8
S+E+P+T+E+M+B+E+R = -6+9+2+1+9-2-10+9-3 =  9
O+C+T+O+B+ER      = 4+5+1+4-10+9-3      = 10
N+O+V+E+M+B+E+R   = -4+4+8+9-2-10+9-3   = 11
D+E+C+E+M+B+E+R   = -5+9+5+9-2-10+9-3   = 12

Similarly, if -7 to 7 are assigned SROEMUNFIDYHTAW, then SUNDAY to SATURDAY take on ordinal values. See Alignment.

(David Morice, “Kickshaws,” Word Ways 24:2 [May 1991], 105-116.)

“Non Cogitant, Ergo Non Sunt”

Aphorisms of 18th-century German physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg:

  • “There are people who think that everything one does with a serious face is sensible.”
  • “To read means to borrow; to create out of one’s readings is paying off one’s debts.”
  • “How close may our thoughts come at times to grazing on a great discovery?”
  • “I would often rather read what a famous author has cut from one of his works than what he has let stand.”
  • “A golden rule: one must judge men not by their opinions, but by what their opinions have made of them.”
  • “My body is that part of the world which my thoughts can change. Even imaginary illnesses can become real ones. In the rest of the world, my hypotheses cannot change the order of things.”
  • “It’s questionable whether, when we break a murderer on the wheel we aren’t lapsing into precisely the mistake of the child who hits the chair he bumps into.”
  • “What makes a prolific author is often not his great knowledge but rather that fortunate relation between his abilities and his taste, by virtue of which the latter always approves what the former have produced.”
  • “To make astute people believe that one is what one is not, is harder in most cases than actually to become what one wants to appear.”
  • “Indisputably, masculine beauty has not yet been portrayed enough by those hands which alone could do so — feminine hands.”

“There is a great difference between still believing something and believing it again. Still to believe that the moon affects the plants reveals stupidity and superstition, but to believe it again is a sign of philosophy and reflection.”


When I was young I had an elderly friend who used often to ask me to stay with him in the country. He was a religious man and he read prayers to the assembled household every morning. But he had crossed out in pencil all the passages in the Book of Common Prayer that praised God. He said that there was nothing so vulgar as to praise people to their faces and, himself a gentleman, he could not believe that God was so ungentlemanly as to like it.

— Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up, 1938

Local News

The cemetery at Aurora, Texas, bears a notable marker from the state’s historical commission: “This site is also well known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash, was buried here.”

An April 1897 article by S.E. Haydon in the Dallas Morning News explains that “the airship which has been sailing through the country” had had a fatal accident in Aurora:

It was traveling due north, and much nearer the earth than ever before. Evidently some of the machinery was out of order, for it was making a speed of only ten or twelve miles an hour and gradually settling toward the earth. It sailed directly over the public square, and when it reached the north part of town collided with the tower of Judge Proctor’s windmill and went to pieces with a terrific explosion, scattering debris over several acres of ground, wrecking the windmill and water tank and destroying the judge’s flower garden.

The pilot, purportedly a Martian, was carrying papers bearing indecipherable hieroglyphics. The ship, “built of an unknown metal,” was “too badly wrecked to form any conclusion as to its construction or motive power.”

The story has been inspiring investigations for more than a century, but one item stands out. In a 1980 interview in Time magazine, 86-year-old Aurora resident Etta Pegues said that Haydon had invented the story “as a joke and to bring interest to Aurora. The railroad bypassed us, and the town was dying.”

(Thanks, Meaghan.)