An Unlikely Spy

Looks pretty innocuous, right? This is part of a letter composed by New York doll shop owner Velvalee Dickinson in May 1942. The FBI decoded it as follows:

I just secured information on an aircraft carrier warship. It had been damaged, that is, torpedoed in the middle. But it is now repaired. … They could not get a mate for this, so a plain ordinary warship is being converted into a second aircraft carrier. …

Probably she was referring to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Saratoga. Apparently Dickinson had been operating as a Japanese spy throughout the war — her letters to Buenos Aires, ostensibly about doll collecting, had actually contained detailed information about U.S. warships, coastal defenses, and repair operations.

She protested her innocence but got the maximum sentence, 10 years and a $10,000 fine. She died in 1980.

Wisdom of the Seven Sages

The condensed wisdom of Greece’s “seven sages,” as recorded on the temple wall at Delphi:

  • Solon of Athens – “Nothing in excess.”
  • Chilon of Sparta – “Know thyself.”
  • Thales of Miletus – “To bring surety brings ruin.”
  • Bias of Priene – “Too many workers spoil the work.”
  • Cleobulus of Lindos – “Moderation is the chief good.”
  • Pittacus of Mitylene – “Know thine opportunity.”
  • Periander of Corinth – “Forethought in all things.”

“… Except for All Those Others”

Dubious states:

  • albocracy – government by white people
  • argentocracy – government by money
  • barbarocracy – government by barbarians
  • cannonarchy – government by superior firepower
  • capelocracy – government by shopkeepers
  • chiliarchy – government by one thousand people
  • chirocracy – government by physical force
  • corpocracy – government by corporate bureaucrats
  • demonarchy – government by a demon
  • dulocracy – government by slaves
  • foolocracy – government by fools
  • iatrarchy – government by physicians
  • infantocracy – government by an infant
  • millionocracy – government by millionaires
  • neocracy – government by new or inexperienced rulers
  • partocracy – government by a single unopposed political party
  • pollarchy – government by the multitude or a mob
  • squarsonocracy – government by landholding clergymen
  • tritheocracy – government by three gods
  • xenocracy – government by a body of foreigners

No Handicap

Achievements of Carl Herman Unthan (1848-1928), who was born without hands:

  • He could feed himself at age 2.
  • At age 10 he taught himself the violin.
  • At 16 he was sent to a music conservatory.
  • At 20 he was performing to full concert halls. During his first performance he replaced a broken string with his toes.
  • As a marksman, operating a rifle with his feet, he could shoot the spots out of a playing card.
  • He married Antonie Neschta, whom he met while touring Cuba, Mexico, South America, and Europe.
  • He moved to the United States and eventually gained citizenship.

In 1925, Unthan published an autobiography, Das Pediscript (not “manuscript,” because he typed it with his toes). It was published in English in 1935, seven years after his death.

“The Dovetailed Block”

Another puzzle from Henry Ernest Dudeney:

“Here is a curious mechanical puzzle that was given to me some years ago, but I cannot say who first invented it. It consists of two solid blocks of wood securely dovetailed together. On the other two vertical sides that are not visible the appearance is precisely the same as on those shown. How were the pieces put together?”

Click for Answer