In a Word

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Air_Force_fire_trucks_spray_water_over_a_KC-135_Stratotanker_aircraft_during_the_final_flight,_or_fini_flight,_for_Col._Corey_Martin,_the_commander_of_the_376th_Air_Expeditionary_Wing,_at_Transit_Center_130604-F-LK329-001.jpg

oss
v. to signify, indicate, or make known to somebody that something is the case

mensk
n. honor, dignity, reverence

eximious
adj. distinguished, eminent, excellent

serein
n. a fine rain falling from a cloudless sky

Momentous flights are sometimes marked by a “water salute” in which an aircraft passes under plumes of water sprayed by firefighting vehicles.

Here U.S. Air Force fire trucks salute a KC-135 Stratotanker, marking the final flight of Col. Corey Martin, commander of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, in Kyrgyzstan in 2013.

A New Lease

Brazilian pianist João Carlos Martins won worldwide acclaim but had to retire in March 2019 after 24 surgeries could not relieve the pain caused by a degenerative disease and a series of accidents.

But designer Ubiratã Bizarro Costa proposed making some neoprene-covered bionic gloves that lift Martins’ fingers after they depress the keys, and by December they had perfected them.

“I might not recover the speed of the past,” Martins told the Associated Press. “I don’t know what result I will get. I’m starting over as though I were an 8-year-old learning.”

But his goal now is to play an entire Bach concert perfectly. “It could take one, two years. I will keep pushing until that happens. I won’t give up.”

The Body in the Cylinder

In 1943 a bulldozer turned up a 6-foot cylinder while clearing building debris from a blitzed site in Liverpool. It was laid aside by the building contractors and remained unregarded for two years, until in July 1945 three boys discovered a human skeleton inside.

It appeared to be the remains of an adult male who had crawled into the cylinder and was lying there, his head pillowed on a brick wrapped in sacking, when he died, probably around 1885. He was wearing Victorian clothing of good quality, and his pockets contained two diaries, a postcard, a handkerchief, a brooch, a signet ring, and some miscellaneous papers.

The postcard was addressed to T C Williams. In 1885 Liverpool had had a paint and brush manufacturer by that name. He had declared bankruptcy the year before, and the inquest hypothesized that he’d left home and been sleeping in the cylinder, perhaps at his place of business, when it became sealed somehow and he’d asphyxiated. Possibly the authorities at the time assumed he’d absconded to escape his debts. There is no record in England of his burial.

The whole case is fascinating.

The AVE Mizar

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AVE-Mizar-1973-N68X-XL.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1971, two aeronautical engineering students set out to make an aircraft by mating the wings, engine, and airframe of a Cessna Skymaster to a modified Ford Pinto. In principle you could drive to the airport, attach the wings in two minutes, and get quickly into the air under the combined power of two engines. At your destination you’d land, stop quickly using the car’s four-wheel brakes, detach the wings, and drive off.

By 1973, two prototypes had been built and the FAA was considering certification, but on two testing flights a wing strut detached from the car. One pilot had to land in a bean field, and another died when the wing folded. The project was dropped.

Living Sculpture

Crop artist Stan Herd plants, mows, and plows land to create large-scale images visible from the air.

“All over the world farmers draw with the plough, harrow, and harvesting combine, and paint with the colors of their crops,” he says. He applies the same techniques to create portraits, still lifes, and (somewhat recursively) landscapes.

Duty

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

In 1936 the Princess learnt that their father had become king. Margaret Rose asked her sister, ‘Does that mean you will have to be the next queen?’ ‘Yes, some day’, replied Elizabeth. ‘Poor you!’ came the response.

— Lucinda Hawksley, Elizabeth Revealed: 500 Facts About the Queen and Her World, 2018

Podcast Episode 313: The Santa Claus Association

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Santa%27s_Portrait_TNast_1881.jpg

In 1913, New York publicist John Duval Gluck founded an association to answer Santa’s mail. For 15 years its volunteers fulfilled children’s Christmas wishes, until Gluck’s motivation began to shift. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the rise and fall of “Santa’s Secretary” in New York City.

We’ll also survey some splitting trains and puzzle over a difference between twins.

See full show notes …

Pursuit

http://cyclopediaofpuzzles.com/page/216

A problem from Sam Loyd’s Cyclopedia of Puzzles, 1914:

Here is the puzzle of Tom the Piper’s Son, who, as told by ‘Mother Goose,’ stole the pig and away he run. It is known that Tom entered the far gate shown at the top on the right hand. The pig was rooting at the base of the tree 250 yards distant, and Tom captured it by always running directly towards it, while the pig made a bee-line towards the lower corner as shown. Now, assuming that Tom ran one-third faster than the pig, how far did the pig run before he was caught?

Intriguingly, Loyd adds, “The puzzle is a remarkable one on account of its apparent simplicity and yet the ordinary manner of handling problems of this character is so complicated that solvers are asked merely to submit approximately correct answers, based upon judgment and common sense, just to see who can make the best guess. The simple rule for solving it, however, which will doubtless be quite new to our puzzlists, is based upon elementary arithmetic.” What’s the answer?

Click for Answer