Poe’s Death

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What killed Edgar Allan Poe?

On Oct. 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore, delirious and wearing clothes that were not his own. The man who found him said he was “in great distress, and … in need of immediate assistance.” He remained incoherent and died four days later. He was only 40.

An acquaintance said it was drunkenness, but he turned out to be a supporter of the temperance movement who distorted the facts. The attending physician wrote that “Edgar Allan Poe did not die under the effect of any intoxicant, nor was the smell of liquor upon his breath or person.”

Well, what, then? Other theories include a rare brain disease, diabetes, enzyme deficiency, syphilis, even rabies. Some people think Poe was accosted, drugged, and used as a pawn in a plot to stuff ballot boxes that day.

There’s no surviving death certificate, so we’ll never really know. Today Poe lies in the churchyard at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, where mystery follows him even in death: Every year since 1949, the grave has been visited by a mystery man in the early hours of the poet’s birthday, Jan. 19. Dressed in black and carrying a silver-tipped cane, the “Poe Toaster” kneels at the grave and makes a toast with Martel cognac. He leaves behind the half-empty bottle and three red roses.

Famous Atheists

Famous atheists:

  • Ingmar Bergman
  • Ambrose Bierce
  • George Carlin
  • Denis Diderot
  • Sigmund Freud
  • David Hume
  • John Stuart Mill
  • Bertrand Russell
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Percy Shelley
  • B.F. Skinner

“One of the proofs of the immortality of the soul is that myriads have believed in it,” wrote Mark Twain. “They have also believed the world was flat.”

“Be All My Socks Remembered”

An excerpt from Fox in Socks, Prince of Denmark:

ACT 4, Scene 2
[Enter FOX and KNOX]
FOX: Try to say this my lord Knox, prithee –
Through three cheese trees, or not through three cheese trees,
That is the question –
whether ’tis nobler In the trees for three free fleas to fly,
Or to take a freezy breeze that blew
While these fleas flew and by blowing
Freeze these three trees. To breeze, to freeze –
No more; and by a breeze to blow
we freeze the trees and the thousand natural trees
That cheese is heir to – ’tis a cheese
Devoutly to be freezed.
To breeze, to freeze – To freeze, perchance to sneeze.
Ay, there’s the rub,
For in that freeze of cheese what sneezes may come,
When fleas flew off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
KNOX: Adieu my lord,
This is a speech of fire that fain would blaze
But that this folly doubts it.
[Exeunt]

From the Dr. Seuss Parody Page.

Limerick

There once was an old man of Lyme
Who married three wives at a time
When asked, “Why a third?”
He replied, “One’s absurd
And bigamy, sir, is a crime.”

— William Cosmo Monkhouse

Why Is a Manhole Cover Round?

Actual questions asked in Microsoft job interviews:

  • How are M&Ms made?
  • Suppose you had eight billiard balls, and one of them was slightly heavier, but the only way to tell was by putting it on a scale against another. What’s the fewest number of times you’d have to use the scale to find the heavier ball?
  • Why do you want to work at Microsoft?
  • One train leaves Los Angeles at 15 mph heading for New York. Another train leaves from New York at 20 mph heading for Los Angeles on the same track. If a bird, flying at 25 mph, leaves from Los Angeles at the same time as the train and flies back and forth between the two trains until they collide, how far will the bird have traveled?
  • How many gas stations are there in the USA?
  • You’ve got someone working for you for seven days and a gold bar to pay them. The gold bar is segmented into seven connected pieces. You must give them a piece of gold at the end of every day. If you are only allowed to make two breaks in the gold bar, how do you pay your worker?
  • The interviewer hands you a black pen and says nothing but “This pen is red.”
  • Pairs of primes separated by a single number are called prime pairs. Examples are 17 and 19. Prove that the number between a prime pair is always divisible by 6 (assuming both numbers in the pair are greater than 6). Now prove that there are no “prime triples.”

At the end they ask, “What was the hardest question asked of you today?” My answer: “Why do you want to work at Microsoft?”

Future Perfect

Predictions made by John Titor, a “time traveler” from 2036 who appeared briefly on the Internet in 2000 and 2001:

  • The United States will go to war with Iraq over claims that the latter has nuclear weapons, and these claims will later prove false.
  • Civil unrest will follow the presidential election of 2004, escalating into civil war in 2005.
  • The war will pit cities against rural areas, with the government controlling the cities.
  • When the old system cannot be restored, a new president will take power in 2009.
  • As American support for Israel wavers, a nuclear war will occur in the Middle East.
  • China will take over Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.
  • In 2015 there will be a global nuclear war among United States, China, Europe, and Russia. Nearly 3 billion people will die.

“Perhaps I should let you all in on a little secret,” he wrote. “No one likes you in the future. This time period is looked at as being full of lazy, self-centered, civically ignorant sheep. Perhaps you should be less concerned about me and more concerned about that.”

On the other hand, he also claimed that Y2K would lead to martial law and that “Russia is covered in nuclear snow from their collapsed reactors.” So, maybe not.