Friday, July 22, 2016

Connecting words

In each sentence below, two words appear in all-caps. Combine the words by adding a single letter that connects the two.


     This year, let's TRY renting a CABIN by the lake.


There are seven sentences in all. Keep track of the letters you add, because afterwards you will rearrange those letters to form a seven-letter word. Enjoy!

     CALL today for a great deal on a USED car!

     DOES Washington Nationals pitcher Bronson Arroyo have a TORN rotator cuff?

     There weren't enough SUBS in the district to cover STEM subjects.

     The playboy drove a RACY AUTO.

     They threw him in the BRIG for failing a sobriety TEST.

     ASSES CAN carry heavy loads on a backpacking trip.

     There isn't an OUNCE of truth to PRO wrestling.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Swap and Scramble

Here's how you play. I'll give you two words of the same length, stacked one atop the other like so:


Step one: Choose a position (1 through 4, in this case), and swap the letters at that position. The result of your swap must be a pair of valid words.

With reference to the example, in this case we could choose the 4th position and swap to obtain:


Step two: Find an anagram of both of your new words.

With reference to the example, we have:


That's it. First swap, then scramble. Have fun.

















The three-letter example is suitable for kids, if you first carefully explain the steps using FIRM/SOFT as an example.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Two Book Reviews: "Uncommon Ground" and "1000 Foods To Eat Before You Die"

1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover's Life List

By Mimi Sheraton

Workman Publishing, 2014

Softcover, 990 pages

(Click to see this review on the book's Amazon product page.)

Mimi Sheraton is a major food critic, and 1000 Foods, written toward the end of her career, is a monument to the world's cuisine. Sheraton's list includes guilty pleasures like a deep-fried Mars bar, humble dishes like a BLT, food spectacles like Sartu di Riso, and prized items like alphonso mangoes, Fourme d'Ambert cheese, and saffron. The list also includes renowned restaurants, beloved cafes, and sensational fish markets. The entries in the book are informative, thoroughly indexed, and often illustrated with photographs.

The book reveals similarity across cultures (we all love stew, we all love spice, and we all love dumplings of one kind or another) as well as differences: it would take a committed relativist to deny the evidence in these pages that different regions of the world differ greatly in the overall scrumptiousness of their traditional foods.

One of the pleasures of a book like 1000 Foods is kibbitzing on the list itself. How could Sheraton leave out chicken pot pie? Tres leches cake? A cold meatloaf sandwich with ketchup? And how did maple syrup not make the cut? (Canadians, it seems, were not pleased.)

I received the book as a gift and read it in one sitting, dog-earing a couple dozen pages along the way. Perhaps that is the best use of a book like 1000 Foods: to select from its bounty a wish-list all your own.

Uncommon Ground: A word-lover's guide to the British landscape

By Dominick Tyler

Guardian Books, 2015

Softcover, 247 pages

(Click to see this review on the book's Amazon product page.)

Photographer Dominick Tyler traveled the length and breadth of Britain to produce Uncommon Ground, a treasury of words that name features of the landscape. The boulder yonder that seems out of place in its meadow...the mountain on the horizon shaped like a rounded heap...those circular ripples where an unseen fish has broken the water's surface—Uncommon Ground gives us words for them. Often ancient, and sometimes unpronounceable, this lexicon evokes by turns the bucolic, the desolate, the sylvan, and even the sinister.

You'll have noticed some of these natural features before. Others, so to speak, you'll have noticed without noticing them. From now on, you'll see them more clearly, because you'll have the words for them. Tyler is interested in the way words allow us to attach to reality in general and to the landscape in particular. His pensive mini-essays, and his artful yet unpretentious photographs, offer pure browsing pleasure while advancing his proposition that "rebuilding our landscape vocabulary might enable more complicated conversations about nature to take place."

What might have been a coffee-table book signals intimacy instead, thanks to its compact format and thoughtful typography. I received the book as a gift and expect to reread it often. Here is the Guardian review including a few of the photos.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Snapshots 2

Yesterday I posted some more snapshots to my Google+ profile. I figured I'd start using that outlet for pictures or little notes, while continuing to post blog-post-type things on this blog.

Anyway here's a link to the snapshots, if you want to see them—art and artifacts, buildings, street scenes, airports and hotels. A few of the pics in smaller format below.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Solution to Clock Puzzle

On a wall clock, the minute hand (black) and the sweep second hand (red) are the same length, while the hour hand (grey) is shorter. If the clock starts at noon, then at approximately what time after that do the tips of the three hands first become collinear?


During the first minute, the hour hand will barely move, and the minute hand will move a bit, so there arises a bit of angular separation between them. The line through their tips intersects the far edge of the clock somewhere to the left of the 6. Thus, there will be a time, somewhat after 30 seconds have passed, when the tips of the clock hands are collinear. Here's a picture of that moment:

If we take the hour hand to be three-fourths as long as the other hands, as suggested in the previous post, then we can give a more precise answer: collinearity first occurs after 33.6 seconds have passed.

Between noon and midnight, there are 708 different moments when the tips of the three hands are collinear.

(This count does not include the trivial instances of collinearity that occur when the minute hand and second hand coincide—there are 708 of those also.)

Here's a movie that animates all 708 of the moments when the hand-tips are nontrivially collinear.  

If you want to know how I found these 708 cases, click here. (I think this is probably the first time I've ever factored a 1,438th-degree polynomial!)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Clock Puzzle

On this wall clock, the minute hand (black) and the sweep second hand (red) are the same length, while the hour hand (grey) is shorter. At the moment of time shown, the tips of the three hands form a triangle.

Question: If the clock starts at noon, then at what time after that do the tips of the three hands first become collinear?

An approximate answer in the form of a sketch is fine. If you wish to approach the problem quantitatively, then let's agree that the hour hand is three-fourths as long as the other two hands.