Mail Boat Jumpers

The homes around Wisconsin’s Geneva Lake receive their mail by boat, a tradition begun in 1916. While the boat travels at a steady 5 mph, a “jumper” must jump onto each dock, run to the mailbox, swap the outgoing mail with the incoming, and jump back on board before the boat has traveled out of reach.

They can accomplish all this in as little as 10 seconds — but a typical career also includes one fall into the lake.

Drawing Customers

Seoul’s Drawing Cafe is styled like a two-dimensional cartoon. Inspired by the Korean television show W, in which characters move between the real world and a fantasy world inside a webtoon, the café has designed its furniture, walls, floors, mugs, dishes, and cutlery to look like flat line drawings.

More on the café’s Instagram page.

Unto the Breach

What constitutes a hole? We recognize and refer to holes as we do ordinary material objects, but a hole doesn’t seem to have a material existence. A hole has a “host” (say, a doughnut), and it may have a “guest” (say, air), but neither of these is itself the hole. Somehow the hole is a something that’s made of nothing.

In a 1969 essay by David and Stephanie Lewis, Argle and Bargle argue over a hole in a piece of Gruyère cheese:

Bargle. How can something utterly devoid of matter be made of matter?

Argle. You’re looking for the matter in the wrong place. (I mean to say, that’s what you would be doing if there were any such things as places, which there aren’t.) The matter isn’t inside the hole. It would be absurd to say it was: nobody wants to say that holes are inside themselves. The matter surrounds the hole. The lining of a hole, you agree, is a material object. For every hole there is a hole-lining; for every hole-lining there is a hole. I say the hole-lining is the hole.

Bargle. Didn’t you say that the hole-lining surrounds the hole? Things don’t surround themselves.

Argle. Holes do. In my language, ‘surrounds’ said of a hole (described as such) means ‘is identical with’. ‘Surrounds’ said of other things means just what you think it means.

Bargle. Doesn’t it bother you that your dictionary must have two entries under ‘surrounds’ where mine has only one?

Also: If I fill in a hole in the ground, have I destroyed it? If I dig again in the same place, am I creating a new hole or restoring the old one?

(David Lewis and Stephanie Lewis, “Holes,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 48:2 [August 1970], 206-212.)

Podcast Episode 240: The Shark Papers

https://www.goodfreephotos.com/animals/fish/bull-shark-carcharhinus-leuces-drawing.jpg.php

In 1799 two Royal Navy ships met on the Caribbean Sea, and their captains discovered they were parties to a mind-boggling coincidence that would expose a crime and make headlines around the world. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the shark papers, one of the strangest coincidences in maritime history.

We’ll also meet some Victorian kangaroos and puzzle over an expedient fire.

See full show notes …

Levon’s Divine Underground

In 1985, Levon Arakelyan’s wife asked him to dig a potato cellar in their basement in Arinj, Armenia. He did this, and then continued digging for 23 years. At his death in 2008 he’d produced a network of rooms, steps, and corridors that extended 21 meters beneath the couple’s two-story house. A builder by trade, he did all of this with hand tools. Today his widow runs a small museum and gives tours of her late husband’s strange obsession. More photos here.

Something Borrowed

http://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/2011/06/june-brides-and-d-day.html
Image: National Museum of American History

Under enemy fire on March 25, 1945, radio operator Temple Leslie Bourland bailed out of a C-47 over the Rhine. He injured his hip but avoided capture, hiding in a foxhole for two days while using his parachute as a blanket. When Allied troops discovered him he returned to his unit.

That summer he met San Antonio secretary Rosalie Hierholzer, and during their brief courtship he showed her the bullet-riddled parachute, which he kept in his trunk. Rosalie’s aunt Lora offered to make it into a bridal gown, and Rosalie wore it at their wedding. The train still retained some of the military seams.

An Empty Message

“The hardest of all adventures to speak of is music, because music has no meaning to speak of. If music could be translated into human speech it would no longer need to exist. Like love, music’s a mystery which, when solved, evaporates.” — Ned Rorem, Music From Inside Out, 1967

“Music has no subject beyond the combinations of notes we hear, for music speaks not only by means of sounds, it speaks nothing but sound.” — Eduard Hanslick

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” — Victor Hugo

But music moves us, and we know not why;
We feel the tears, but cannot trace their source.
Is it the language of some other state,
Born of its memory? For what can wake
The soul’s strong instinct of another world,
Like music?

— Letitia Elizabeth Landon, The Golden Violet, 1827

Utsuro-Bune

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Utsurofune.jpg

Three different Japanese texts of the early 19th century refer to a “hollow ship” that arrived on a local beach in 1803. A white-skinned young woman emerged, but fishermen found that she couldn’t communicate in Japanese, so they returned her to the vessel, which drifted back to sea.

This seems to be a folktale, though it’s an oddly specific one — the texts give specific dates (Feb. 22 or March 24) and give the dimensions of the craft (3.3 meters high, 5.4 meters wide), which was shaped like a rice pot or incense burner fitted with small windows. Reportedly the woman carried a small box that no one was allowed to touch.

But the place names mentioned appear to be fictitious; most likely the story is merely an expression of the insularity of the Edo period. One thing the ship wasn’t is a UFO — it never left the water, but simply floated away.

“The Dyspeptic’s Suicide”

Mr. Beauclerk said [to Samuel Johnson:] Mr. ——–, who loved buttered muffins, but durst not eat them because they disagreed with his stomach, resolved to shoot himself; and then he eat three buttered muffins for breakfast, before shooting himself, knowing that he should not be troubled with indigestion; he had two charged pistols; one was found lying charged upon the table by him, after he had shot himself with the other.

— James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, 1791

Progress

The clock on Bolivia’s congressional building runs counterclockwise.

Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said the “clock of the south” had been adopted to affirm the country’s “southernness” and to encourage Bolivians to question norms and think creatively.

“Who says that the clock always has to turn one way?” he asked at a news conference in 2014. “Why do we always have to obey? Why can’t we be creative?”

Perhaps he’d been inspired by Venezuela, where in 2006 president Hugo Chávez raised a new national flag on which a white horse gallops left instead of right, “representing the return of Bolivar and his dream,” and the following year he put the nation’s clocks back half an hour “so that our bodies and above all our children take better advantage of sunlight and adapt the biological clock.”