# Relatively Speaking

The Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge across the Seine.

Pont neuf means “new bridge.”

# Noted

The towns of Dull, Scotland, and Boring, Oregon, became sister cities in 2012.

“One of the things our communities share is the weather,” Boring journalist Jim Hart told the BBC. “We get a lot of rain and snow every year.”

UPDATE! Now the Australian town of Bland has joined them, creating a “trinity of tedium.”

# Misc

• Only humans are allergic to poison ivy.
• GUNPOWDERY BLACKSMITH uses 20 different letters.
• New York City has no Wal-Marts.
• (5/8)2 + 3/8 = (3/8)2 + 5/8
• “Ignorance of one’s misfortunes is clear gain.” — Euripides

For any four consecutive Fibonacci numbers a, b, c, and d, ad and 2bc form the legs of a Pythagorean triangle and cdab is the hypotenuse.

(Thanks, Katie.)

# Abuse of Power

One hot summer day in 1904, Speaker of the House Joe Cannon of Illinois visited the House dining room and asked for a bowl of bean soup. He was told that, in view of the sultry weather, it had been omitted from the menu.

“Thunderation!” Cannon roared. “I had my mouth set for bean soup! From now on, hot or cold, rain, snow, or shine, I want it on the menu every day.”

And so it has been, ever since. The recipe was published on the menu in 1955:

2 lb. No. 1 white Michigan beans.
Cover with water and soak overnight.
Drain and re-cover with water.
Add a smoked ham hock and simmer slowly for about 4 hours until beans are cooked tender. Then add salt and pepper to suit taste.
Just before serving, bruise beans with large spoon ladle, enough to cloud. (Serves about six persons)

# As Time Goes By

A piano keyboard can be used as a calendar mnemonic: If the notes in the chromatic scale from F to E are assigned to the calendar months from January to December, then the white keys correspond to months with 31 days, the black keys to those with 30 days or fewer.

# Misc

• The first child to be vaccinated in Russia was named Vaccinov.
• Every treasurer of the United States since 1949 has been a woman.
• 15642 = 1 + 56 + 42
• up inverted is dn.
• “Life well spent is long.” — Leonardo

# Misc

• AWE and WONDER are synonyms, but AWFUL and WONDERFUL are antonyms.
• Abraham Lincoln is in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
• Ravel described Boléro as “a piece for orchestra without music.”
• “In politics, what begins in fear usually ends in folly.” — Coleridge

# Tacet

William Bliss’ 1949 book The Real Shakespeare concludes with a “Shakespeare examination paper for reasonably advanced students.” It includes this question:

5. What character (and in what play) has the shortest part; appears only once (and that in a stage direction); and says nothing — and yet is essential to the plot?

I thought this might make a good puzzle — but I don’t know the answer! Bliss withholds his, and despite a lot of fumbling research I can’t find a significant player in Shakespeare who says nothing at all. Maybe the bear in The Winter’s Tale? I’ll leave it here as an open-ended riddle.

UPDATE: In the messages I’ve received, the most popular candidate is Banquo’s ghost in Macbeth. Banquo appears alive and speaks early in the play, but Macbeth has him murdered in Act III and his ghost haunts Macbeth silently thereafter, plaguing his conscience. In the stage directions, the ghost is called “Ghost of Banquo,” so arguably this is a distinct character.

09/13/2013 Another possibility: the corpse of Henry VI in Richard III. He appears once, carried in a coffin while Richard woos the mourning Lady Anne; he certainly says nothing; and his death and the victory of the Yorkists set off the events of the play. (Thanks, Josh.)

08/18/2015 An even better guess: Elizabeth I appears once, says nothing, and is onstage for less than 100 lines in Act V, Scene V of Henry VIII:

All the expected good we’re like to hear
For this play at this time, is only in
The merciful construction of good women;
For such a one we show’d ’em …

(Thanks, Joe.)

# En Garde!

The modern pentathlon comprises five events: show jumping, fencing, 200-meter freestyle swimming, pistol shooting, and a 3-kilometer cross-country run.

Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, conceived the sport to reflect the skills needed by a Napoleonic cavalry officer: He must ride across unfamiliar terrain; engage an opponent at swordpoint; swim a river that his steed cannot cross; exchange fire with his enemies; and run across country.

Coubertin believed that this event, more than any other, “tested an athlete’s moral qualities as much as their physical resources and skills, producing thereby the ideal, complete athlete.”

(Thanks, Julius.)

# Presidential Timber

In 1940 Ronald Reagan was voted a “Twentieth Century Adonis” by the University of Southern California’s Division of Fine Arts for having the “most nearly perfect male figure.”

He posed for student sculptors there.