Jukebox Groceries


The first automated grocery store in the United States appeared in 1937. At Keedoozle, each customer received a key bearing a roll of paper tape. At a series of display cases, she’d insert her key at each item she wanted and press a button, which would punch a pattern of holes in the tape. At the cashier, an electronic “translator” would total the price and release the requested items through chutes onto a conveyor belt. The customer would wait in a lounge until her packed items were delivered to her.

Founder Clarence Saunders claimed that the automated store required only seven employees, half as many as a traditional supermarket. This permitted a 7.5 percent profit on prices 10 percent lower than competing stores, he said.

The system wasn’t entirely automated — humans kept the stocks filled and bagged the orders — and it could handle only cans and cartons, not fresh meat or vegetables. And it tended to founder when the store got busy. But historians also say that the concept was too far ahead of its time — the American public just wasn’t ready for automated shopping. Only three stores were ever built, and the last closed in 1949.

(Thanks, Abi.)


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Recently I was on the northern Queensland coast of Australia, in an Aboriginal reserve. In the most unlikely spot I encountered a beachcomber, who had been living there for several years. He was looking for floats and bottles, building a raft that would take him around the top of Cape York in one of the most dangerous channels in the world for current and wind — the Torres Straits. I asked him if he knew the risks.

‘I’m not bothered,’ he said. ‘You can go anywhere, you can do just about anything, if you’re not in a hurry.’

That is one of the sanest statements I have ever heard in my life.

— Paul Theroux, Fresh Air Fiend: Travel Writings, 2001



There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that ‘remembered’ a wholly unreal past. There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago.

— Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of Mind, 1921



  • Liza Minnelli, daughter of Judy Garland, married Jack Haley Jr., son of the Tin Man.
  • The Netherlands still sends 20,000 tulip bulbs to Canada each year.
  • Every positive integer is a sum of distinct terms in the Fibonacci sequence.
  • HIDEOUS and HIDEOUT have no vowel sounds in common.
  • “Death is only a larger kind of going abroad.” — Samuel Butler

(Thanks, Colin and Joseph.)

Melodic Puns

In Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, in which the phrase “me and my soul” is sung repeatedly, the words me and soul are sung to the notes mi and sol.

In the song “Sodomy” in the 1967 rock musical Hair, the word sodomy is sung to the notes so, do, and mi.

(From Dave Morice, The Dictionary of Wordplay, 2001.)

06/13/2024 UPDATE: In 1955, entomologists James Brennan and D. Elden Beck named two new species of chigger Trombicula doremi and Trombicula fasola.

Day Tripper

A letter from Lewis Carroll to Nature, March 31, 1887:

Having hit upon the following method of mentally computing the day of the week for any given date, I send it you in the hope that it may interest some of your readers. I am not a rapid computer myself, and as I find my average time for doing any such question is about 20 seconds, I have little doubt that a rapid computer would not need 15.

Take the given date in 4 portions, viz. the number of centuries, the number of years over, the month, the day of the month.

Compute the following 4 items, adding each, when found, to the total of the previous items. When an item or total exceeds 7, divide by 7, and keep the remainder only.

The Century-Item. — For Old Style (which ended September 2, 1752) subtract from 18. For New Style (which began September 14) divide by 4, take overplus from 3, multiply remainder by 2. [The Century-Item is the first two digits of the year, so for 1811 take 18.]

The Year-Item. — Add together the number of dozens, the overplus, and the number of 4’s in the overplus.

The Month-Item. — If it begins or ends with a vowel, subtract the number, denoting its place in the year, from 10. This, plus its number of days, gives the item for the following month. The item for January is ‘0’; for February or March (the 3rd month), ‘3’; for December (the 12th month), ’12.’ [So, for clarity, the required final numbers after division by 7 are January, 0; February, 3; March, 3; April, 6; May, 1; June, 4; July, 6; August 2; September, 5; October, 0; November, 3; and December, 5.]

The Day-Item is the day of the month.

The total, thus reached, must be corrected, by deducting ‘1’ (first adding 7, if the total be ‘0’), if the date be January or February in a Leap Year: remembering that every year, divisible by 4, is a Leap Year, excepting only the century-years, in New Style, when the number of centuries is not so divisible (e.g. 1800).

The final result gives the day of the week, ‘0’ meaning Sunday, ‘1’ Monday, and so on.


1783, September 18

17, divided by 4, leaves ‘1’ over; 1 from 3 gives ‘2’; twice 2 is ‘4.’

83 is 6 dozen and 11, giving 17; plus 2 gives 19, i.e. (dividing by 7) ‘5.’ Total 9, i.e. ‘2.’

The item for August is ‘8 from 10,’ i.e. ‘2’; so, for September, it is ‘2 plus 3,’ i.e. ‘5.’ Total 7, i.e. ‘0,’ which goes out.

18 gives ‘4.’ Answer, ‘Thursday.’

1676, February 23

16 from 18 gives ‘2.’

76 is 6 dozen and 4, giving 10; plus 1 gives 11, i.e. ‘4.’ Total ‘6.’

The item for February is ‘3.’ Total 9, i.e. ‘2.’

23 gives ‘2.’ Total ‘4.’

Correction for Leap Year gives ‘3.’ Answer, ‘Wednesday.’

(Via Edward Wakeling, Rediscovered Lewis Carroll Puzzles, 1995.)

Simple Enough


“It often happens that the easiest dissection puzzles are the prettiest,” wrote Henry Dudeney in 1914. “Here is a new one that ought to give the reader very little trouble. Cut the figure into five pieces that will fit together and form a square.”

Click for Answer