CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.
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February 28, 2007

Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore (permalink)
Today's Question:

Did Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrender to Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865?

With hindpsych, the answer is "yes"!  In our striking Tarot spread, notice the cards on the right and left.  The chariot driver (left) and the priestess (right) are a divided couple, and each card displays conspicuous polarization: black and white sphinxes pull the chariot, and black and white columns enclose the priestess.  The chariot driver and the priestess symbolize the leaders of the Union and Confederacy, each at the center of a profound division.  One side is equipped to move forward ("The Chariot"), and the other is sitting in resignation ("The High Priestess").  This suggests a surrender rather than a stalemate.  The center card, "The Lovers," shows the two sides coming together.  "The Lovers" card symbolizes union, and indeed the Union Army prevails.  Note that the man and woman in the center card are reaching toward one another but not yet embracing.  They are formally joined by a higher good (symbolized by the overseeing spirit), but Reconstruction will take time.  We can say with confidence that Lee surrenders to Grant in 1865, and we can now move on.


Tarot card images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
* Historians must reconstruct the past out of hazy memory.  "Once upon a time" requires "second sight."  The "third eye" of intuition can break the "fourth wall" of conventional perspectives.  Instead of "pleading the fifth," historians can take advantage of the "sixth sense" and be in "seventh heaven."  All with the power of hindpsych, the "eighth wonder of the world."  It has been said that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.  Therein lies the importance of Tarot readings for antiquity.  When we confirm what has already occurred, we break the shackles of the past, freeing ourselves to chart new courses into the future.
> read more from Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore . . .

February 27, 2007

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:


> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .

February 26, 2007

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
“Look! Look! Look!”

“Look! Look! Look!”  It was
the oldest trick in the book.
—Rudy Rucker, Frek and the Elixir (2005)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

February 25, 2007

Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)
I dreamed that a rogue Ouija Board planchette was flying in search of me.*

* "Five people were injured last week when a planchette--the device which points to letters and numbers on Ouija Boards--flew violently out of a house in search of a semicolon.
The planchette went rogue when Kelly Smerton, eleven, and her sister Karen, twelve, inadvertently channelled the spirit of a deceased English teacher." --Weekly World News.  See entire article for more hilarity.
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

February 24, 2007

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
You can always spot an expired coupon -- it's a dead giveaway.

Why do sheets of paper always hate going into work?
They always get reamed out.

Did you hear about the piece of paper with amnesia?
It was a total blank.

Why can't a piece of paper hide its intentions?
They're written all over its face.

What office supply store are pieces of paper bound to work at?
Staples.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

February 23, 2007

Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)
I dreamt of the Maestro.*

*"Henry James is the maestro of the semicolon." —Truman Capote
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

February 22, 2007

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Limiting Visibility

First I will make myself less visible.  That is one of the oldest tricks in the book, as they say.  You’ve read about it in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, no doubt.
—Cindy Trumbore, The Genie in the Book (2004)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

February 21, 2007

The Right Word (permalink)

Literary Lettuce Leaves

I stumbled across someone described as "a literary lettuce-leaf."  It is a withering put down, presumably; a "literary artichoke" wouldn't sound so limp and would offer a more substantial heart within.  And yet, perhaps enchanted by the alliteration, I find myself intrigued by the idea of a literary lettuce leaf.

Here's a lovely Lebanese folk song concerning a lettuce leaf:

The roses are full, full
The roses are always on my mind.
I love the roses only
And, O my soul, the lettuce leaf.

In a poem by Ricardo Sternberg, a lettuce leaf becomes the shroud of an expired mouse.

In Tom Robbins' Villa Incognito, mayonnaise cloaks a lettuce leaf like a magician's handkerchief, restoring the leaf's capacity to delight:

Yellow as summer sunlight, soft as young thighs, smooth as a Baptist preacher's rant, falsely innocent as a magician's handkerchief, mayonnaise will cloak a lettuce leaf, some shreds of cabbage, a few hunks of cold potato in the simplest splendor, recycling their dull character, making them lively and attractive again, granting them the capacity to delight the gullet if not the heart.

Fun fact: "In medieval belief, there were many ways a demon could enter the body, sometimes via so seemingly innocuous a vehicle as an unblessed lettuce leaf eaten by a careless nun." —Hilaire Kallendorf, Exorcism and Its Texts
> read more from The Right Word . . .

February 20, 2007

Images Moving Through Time (permalink)

While looking for invisible images, I came across...

A Dali-like painting of an invisible elephant by Nguyen Dinh Dang, and a cat who definitely thinks he's invisible

Beware of the invisible cows of Mauna Kea. Beware of the invisible snowmobiler

One of the most astonishing sensations in the desert is to walk in the middle of nowhere. Hours, with no mark...

Joe Bagley’s photo of two men in lounge chairs and a self-portrait of an invisible photographer taking a tea break

Woody Allen's mockumentary 'Zelig' re-edited to star me, Gert, as the human chameleon. Woody still has a cameo in the movie, by the way

HG Wells Penguin Mug

This invisible globe is a hollow glass sphere with a spinning LED light ring to create different projections. (Other unique globes by the same globe makers)

An invisible lizard

An optical illusion with six invisible triangles. Can you spot them?

Vanishing Point puzzles

Invisible Suits are interactive suits made from special blue screen fabric (material used for work with video blue screen technique). The intended effect is the virtual "disappearance" of the persons wearing the suits: their bodies merge with the visual environment they inhabit. Previously-blogged: Russian professor Oleg Gadomsky patents invisibility cloak

The artist Willem Oorebeek prints black ink on black surfaces, and his invisible "Blackout" images can be seen only from a particular angle

The lost secret of invisibility by artist Howard Kistler

This is a post that I am "co-blogging” with Hanan Levin of Grow-a-Brain. Thank you, Hanan, for the links you suggested!
> read more from Images Moving Through Time . . .

February 19, 2007

Go Out in a Blaze of Glory (permalink)

From the website of Glenna Fletcher, Kentucky's First Lady.
How's this for unusual publicity: a photo of my dictionary of one-letter words being endorsed by a feline friend of the First Dog of Kentucky (the First Dog being the governor's wife's pet).  Let's see ... how many "degrees of separation" is that?  Governor, First Lady, First Dog, feline friend, cat's owner, me.  Yep, it's a classic "six degrees of separation" scenario, but "once removed" in terms of the species jump.

Ken commented:

The Governor has probably met someone even more famous at some political or social gathering.  It might even "backtrack" back to you in another direction, so that you'd be x degrees of separation from yourself.
> read more from Go Out in a Blaze of Glory . . .

February 18, 2007

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Lightning

                    I’ve had a rough night

with the power cut, hours of pounding in a bowl of mountain
thunder, eyeballing this medieval town illuminated by the oldest

trick in the book, god’s theatrics like a drunk lit from within
coursing a way home across the pitched sky

—Jane Miller, “Coupling,” August Zero (1993)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

February 17, 2007

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Q: What did the doctor prescribe for Willy Wonka's limp?

A: A candy cane.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

February 16, 2007

The Right Word (permalink)

Letters in the Sky

In 1933, a German ship cruising in the Baltic sea projected letters onto the clouds in the night sky using a giant searchlight.  Here is a dramatic photo.

The same year, airplanes in the USA were equipped with "player piano" rolls which controlled lights to form huge letters across the wings.

Speaking of letters in the sky, I love this quotation from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read, by the way):

The only live, bright things were the stars.  Their constellations looked to Drawlight like gigantic, glittering letters—letters in an unknown alphabet.  For all he knew the magician had formed the stars into these letters and used them to write a spell against him.
> read more from The Right Word . . .

February 15, 2007

Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:


Printed collections of Forgotten Wisdom diagrams are available: Volume I from Mindful Greetings and Volumes II, III and IV from Amazon.  Selected posters are also available via Zazzle.
> read more from Forgotten Wisdom . . .

February 14, 2007

Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore (permalink)
Today's question:

Gordon asks: "How about a reading for that fateful day for JFK in Dallas?"

In our hindpsych Tarot spread, the left card, "Wheel of Fortune," is a symbol of fate and marks a turning point.  The middle card, "The Tower," symbolizes a sudden crisis and downfall; a king is shown falling from the top of his castle.  The right card, "The Hermit," speaks of retreat from society; the isolated philosopher follows his own light.  Viewing the spread of cards as a whole, we see that the hermit is looking down toward the falling king.  This promotes the theory of a lone gunman, targeting President Kennedy from above.  The light of the hermit's lamp becomes the lightning that strikes the tower, suggesting that the assassin's ideology fuels the overthrow.  On the opposite side of the spread, facing the falling king is the jackal-headed Anubis (an Egyptian guide to the souls of the dead).  This suggests that the crisis will end in death.

Interestingly, the cards echo two aspects of Kennedy's "Camelot" image.  The first is obvious: the crowned king in "The Tower."  The second is a "round table" suggested by the wheel of fortune.  By way of explanation, the "Wheel of Fortune" card is associated with the "Magician" card, as both the wheel and the magician's table feature emblems of the four suits/elements of the Tarot (Fire/Wands, Water/Cups, Earth/Pentacles, Air/Swords).  And so we can consider the wheel as an image of the magician's table, viewed from above.  It is a round table.  In the Camelot story, the round table was designed by the magician Merlin for King Arthur.

Also interestingly, the "Wheel of Fortune" card features open books in the storm clouds at each corner; a book depository is central to the assassination investigation.


Tarot card images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
* Historians must reconstruct the past out of hazy memory.  "Once upon a time" requires "second sight."  The "third eye" of intuition can break the "fourth wall" of conventional perspectives.  Instead of "pleading the fifth," historians can take advantage of the "sixth sense" and be in "seventh heaven."  All with the power of hindpsych, the "eighth wonder of the world."  It has been said that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.  Therein lies the importance of Tarot readings for antiquity.  When we confirm what has already occurred, we break the shackles of the past, freeing ourselves to chart new courses into the future.
> read more from Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore . . .

February 13, 2007

Images Moving Through Time (permalink)
Walking on air (as opposed to walking on water, walking on thin ice, or walking on sunshine):

This parachuter is taking one giant step, on an invisible current of air.

Here's a snapshot of "Sarah and Debbie standing on glass plates in the Auckland Sky Tower about 700 feet up in the air.  This was just a few moments before lightning struck the tower."  I'd say this counts as "walking on air."

These lone Converse shoes hanging on a power line are walking on air.  These occupied shoes are walking even higher.  And these shoes are higher yet.

One attraction of the Macau Tower is the "skywalk," which can be quite scary in cases of strong winds.

This Pedestrian Crossing sign would fit in perfectly at Britain's glass-floored Spinnaker Tower.

This woman is apparently high on life and is walking on air.

These guys in the treetops may be secured by ropes, but they're certainly walking on air.

Sports figures are often walking on air.

Is this Washington Post photo an optical illusion, a Photoshop job, or genuine walking on air?

Back in 1934, Popular Mechanics featured newfangled boots with built-in rubber bladders, promising the sensation of "walking on air."

Of course, the masters of walking on air are caterpillars.
> read more from Images Moving Through Time . . .

February 12, 2007

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Q: What do you call an AWOL with a sweet tooth?

A: A deserter.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

February 11, 2007

The Right Word (permalink)

Give an Inch, Take a Mile

At Inch Beach (on the Dingle peninsula), the water recedes a mile at low tide.

"In what way are an inch and a mile alike?" is a question in a neuropsychological test (from this compendium).

In poetry, an inch of verse can traverse miles.  Praising T.S. Eliot, Robert Francis wrote:

He moved from the Mississippi to the Thames
and we moved with him a few miles or inches.

Speaking of the Thames, the scale of this map of London from 1786 is one inch to a mile.

It has been said that at "Mile Zero" of the Oregon Coast, nearly every inch is scenic (Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein and Andrew Jackman).

"Victory is not won in miles but in inches.  Win a little now, hold your ground, and later win a little more." —Louis L'Amour

Similarly, "Battle is a matter of inches, not miles.  The inches that separate a man from his enemy." —Bernard Cornwell, Excalibur: A Novel of Arthur

The immortal inchworm vs. the infinitely stretchy rubber band:

An inchworm is at one end of an infinitely stretchy mile-long rubber band. He
walks an inch. The rubber band is then stretched to two miles. It stretches
evenly along its entire length, so the inchworm has gotten a one-inch free ride,
and is now two inches from the end. He walks another inch, and is now three
inches from the end. The rubber band stretches another mile, to three miles
long. He gets a 1 1/2 inch free ride out of this stretch. The pattern of walking
an inch and stretching a mile repeats itself indefinitely.

(a) Will the inchworm ever reach the other end? Prove your answer. Hint:
Use the asymptotic bounds on harmonic series.

(b) Will the inchworm ever reach the other end if, instead of increasing by a
mile, the rubber band doubles in length at each step? Prove your answer.

—via this test (.pdf) from an Analysis of Algorithms class.

However, "a mile wide and an inch deep" involves a different sort of math.

Ultimately, "The very idea that space is separated by inches, miles, light-years, and parsecs is but an illusion, as ephemeral as ephemeral as the shadows in Plato's cave." —Win Wenger, The Einstein Factor
> read more from The Right Word . . .

February 10, 2007

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Jumping Ship

[He] booked a destination beyond where he intends to get off.  Oldest trick in the book.
—Jay MacLarty, Bagman (2004)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

February 9, 2007

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)

Why was King Neptune happy as a clam? 

The world was his oyster.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

February 8, 2007

The Right Word (permalink)
A councilman in New York City has asked for a "symbolic moratorium on the use of the n-word."  Columnist Charles Lee is skeptical of legislating language.  He says, "After the n-word, politicians could eradicate the infamous f-word and mark a plethora of other 'one-letter' words on their linguistic hit lists."  He concludes, "The n-word is not the only offensive word.  Perhaps we can attribute this to the fact that language is, to a certain extent, untamable.  Yet surely we can attribute it to the illimitable freedom of speech upon which this country was established."
> read more from The Right Word . . .

February 7, 2007

Images Moving Through Time (permalink)
My family once hosted a foreign exchange student--Fabrice from Corsica--and everywhere we went he asked "Is this typical?"  His recurrent question became especially annoying when we traveled to St. Augustine, Florida.  No, we explained, historic Flagler College is by no means a typical educational institution, as it's a former grand hotel in the style of a Spanish castle!  No, we explained, the students there aren't typical, because they get to study at the beach every day and their dorm rooms are in a former grand hotel in the style of a Spanish castle!  No, we explained, St. Augustine is by no means a typical American city, even if one were to leave Spanish castles out of the equation!  Years have gone by, but I was thinking about Fabrice today, and I decided to honor his memory by searching the Web for "typical" things.  Of course, the Web specializes in the strange and unusual, but after a good bit of digging I was able to uncover some typical things that would have brought Fabrice great comfort.  For example:

A "typical Friday nite."

Typical traffic in Bangkok.  (Actually a rather pretty picture, with lots of glowing primary colors.)

Typical food.  (However, I've never seen anything exactly like it.)

"Just another typical Shanghai party."

A "typical evening in France."

A typical cluttered desk of a sports coach.

A "typical Japanese police station."

"Typical England."  (However, my visits to the U.K. somehow always feature delightful weather!)

"A typical view from the helicopter during a flight over the ice."

A "typical crowd."  (However, they seem to be having way more fun than the people in Shanghai.)

A typical stone fence.

A "typical day" at a typical historical center.

A typical maladjusted teenager.  (Actually a still from Donnie Darko.)

A couple of typical sparrows.

Typical weather.  (Yep, that's weather.)
> read more from Images Moving Through Time . . .

February 5, 2007

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .

February 4, 2007

Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore (permalink)
Today's Question:

June asks: Can you do a reading on the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that occurred on January 28, 1986?

Our hindpsych reading for Challenger's 1986 launch confirms disaster, even at a casual glance.  As the figures in the middle and right cards face left, we read the cards from right to left.  We begin with the Fool, setting off on an adventure.  Where is the Fool looking?  The stars in the sky of the middle card are his goal.  The final card, "Judgement," depicts a trumpeting angel, resurrecting the dead from watery graves.  We can say with confidence that the Challenger launch ends in disaster, and we can now move on.


Tarot card images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
* Historians must reconstruct the past out of hazy memory.  "Once upon a time" requires "second sight."  The "third eye" of intuition can break the "fourth wall" of conventional perspectives.  Instead of "pleading the fifth," historians can take advantage of the "sixth sense" and be in "seventh heaven."  All with the power of hindpsych, the "eighth wonder of the world."  It has been said that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.  Therein lies the importance of Tarot readings for antiquity.  When we confirm what has already occurred, we break the shackles of the past, freeing ourselves to chart new courses into the future.
> read more from Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore . . .

February 3, 2007

The Right Word (permalink)
Ann Althouse says: "I'm fascinated by the almost legible.  Have you ever imagined there were words somewhere that you could almost read?"  She offers this intriguing illustration.

This sign has more distinct letters but is equally illegible.


"A sky full of stars arranged itself in an unreadable tombstone motto."
—Fred Chappell, I Am One of You Forever

Speaking of epitaphs in the sky, the Orion Correlation Theory proposes a relationship between the Egyptian pyramids of Giza and the alignment of stars in the Orion constellation.  Here's a big graphic depicting the correlation.

More mundane but equally mysterious, here's an unreadable funeral marker inside a rock-lined grave in Texas.


"In places the ink was faded, the script unreadable.  It appeared to be a poem."
—Kelly Jones, The Seventh Unicorn

Here's an unreadable 18-line poem, scrawled by Mark W.


"He was writing tiny, illegible doodles on big sheets of paper years before anyone else."
—Edmund White, My Lives

Here's an unreadable page of doodles, with text from an off-world language.


"Concrete poems are often close to graphic art and may be unreadable in a conventional way."
—Stephen Matterson and Darryl Jones, Studying Poetry

Here's unreadable text art, by a program that encodes text as binary and represents the resulting code visually.
> read more from The Right Word . . .

February 2, 2007

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Iris Root

A little powdered fern, a little iris root—it’s the oldest trick in the book.  Girls have been ridding themselves of the fruit of illegal love with that since time began.  By Allah, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mother Eve herself brought those plants with her from Eden, they’re so useful, so divine.
—Ann Chamberlin, Reign of the Favored Women (1998)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

February 1, 2007

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:


> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .



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