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“In terms of organisational models and human relationship models, humankind has not evolved much over the last millennia”*…


The Office of Strategic Services (the CIA’s World War II–era precursor) created this document in 1944, for use by operatives in Europe who were trying to recruit civilians living in occupied countries to commit sabotage. The document is available in full via the CIA’s website.

The Simple Sabotage Field Manual, which contains instructions in physical as well as interpersonal disruption tactics, begins with a preface directed to OSS personnel, describing the problems and possibilities of working with “citizen-saboteurs.” Such people, living under the rule of enemy administrators in countries such as Norway or France, might already be sabotaging materials, machinery, or operations of their own initiative, but these acts “may be completely foreign to [a] habitually conservationist attitude toward materials and tools … Purposeful stupidity is contrary to human nature.” Reading instructions such as the ones in this manual might refine civilian efforts at destruction, and reassure them that they were taking risks that had rewards…

* Miguel Reynolds Brandao, The Sustainable Organisation


As we consult the chart, we might send commercial birthday greetings to Johan van der Veeken; he was born on this date in 1549.  A shipowner, merchant, and banker, van der Veeken was a founding director of the VOC– Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, or the Dutch East India Company as we know it– the first multi-national corporation, and the first company to issue stock. 



“There Are Two Typos Of People In This World: Those Who Can Edit And Those Who Can’t”*…


Typos can be embarrassing. They can also be costly. And not just for those individuals whose jobs depend on knowing the difference between “it’s” and “its” or where a comma is most appropriate. In 2013, bauble-loving Texans got the deal of a lifetime when a misprint in a Macy’s mailer advertised a $1500 necklace for just $47. (It should have read $497.) It didn’t take long for the entire inventory to be zapped, at a loss of $450 a pop to the retail giant. (Not to mention plenty of faces as red as the star in the company’s logo.)

Google, on the other hand, loves a good typing transposition: Harvard University researchers claim that the company earns about $497 million each year from people mistyping the names of popular websites and landing on “typosquatter” sites … which just happen to be littered with Google ads…

From a NSFW travel agency ad to “the most expensive hyphen in history”– “10 very costly typos.”

* Jarod Kintz


As we check our work, we might send carefully-edited birthday greetings to Samuel Langhorne Clemens, AKA Mark Twain; he was born on this date in 1835 in Florida, Missouri.  One of the best-known writers and aphorists of his time and ours, his The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is consistently cited as a (if not indeed the) Great American Novel, at the same time that it is equally consistently the target of censors who would ban it from school and public libraries… but not for sloppy editing or typos: Clemens began his career as a newspaper man– first as a typesetter, then as a reporter, where he honed his copy editing skills.  And he carried those skills with him into the use of new technologies:  he was the first author to submit a typewritten manuscript to his publisher.

Matthew Brady’s photo of Mark Twain

Written by LW

November 30, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Oh how Shakespeare would have loved cinema!”*…


Indiewire‘s list of  “The 50 Best Opening Credit Sequences Of All Time“– each with a video of the sequence, and followed by a bonus “starter list” of other candidates that might have made the cut… because after all, the point of lists like these is the arguments they provoke.

* Derek Jarman, Dancing Ledge


As we settle into our seats, we might spare a thought for Archibald Alexander Leach; he died on this date in 1986.  Known by his stage name, Cary Grant, he became one of the greatest stars in Hollywood history, the epitome of the “leading man,” famous for roles both comedic (e.g., Holiday, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story) and dramatic (Grant was Hitchcock’s favorite actor, for reasons obvious in Suspicion, North By Northwest, To Catch a Thief, and Notorious).

Living for much of his career “above the title,” Grant was the first actor of note to “go independent”– to refuse to sign a studio contract– which gave him control over roles and collaborators and a bigger piece of the action; he was one of the first actors to earn a percentage of his pictures’ gross revenues.




Written by LW

November 29, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”*…


Your correspondent is headed into the chilly wilds for the Thanksgiving holiday, so this will be the last post until after the passing of the tryptophan haze.  By way of keeping readers amused in the meantime, the puzzle above…

Find a step-by-step guide to its answer at “How to Solve the Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever.”

* Tweedledee, in Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There


As we muddle in the excluded middle, we might recall that it was on this date in 1915 that Albert Einstein presented the Einstein Field Equations to the Prussian Academy of Sciences.  Einstein developed what was elaborated into a set of 10 equations to account for gravitation in the curved spacetime described in his General Theory of Relativity; they are used to determine spacetime geometry.

(German mathematician David Hilbert reached the same conclusion, and actually published the equation before Einstein– though Hilbert, who was a correspondent of Einstein’s, never suggested that Einstein’s credit was inappropriate.)

On the right side of the equal sign, the distribution of matter and energy in space; on the left, the geometry of the space, the so-called metric, a prescription for how to compute the distance between two points.



Written by LW

November 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want”*…


How do you spend your days?  Since 2003, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Time Use Survey have asked thousands of people this question.  See the answers– and use interactive charts to see where you fit– at “Counting the Hours.”

* Calvin (Bill Watterson)


As we consider a nap, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Baruch (or Benedict) de Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher whose rationalism and determinism put him in opposition to Descartes and helped lay the foundation for The Enlightenment, and whose pantheistic views led to his excommunication from the Jewish community in Amsterdam; he was born on this date in 1632.

As men’s habits of mind differ, so that some more readily embrace one form of faith, some another, for what moves one to pray may move another to scoff, I conclude … that everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits; each would then obey God freely with his whole heart, while nothing would be publicly honored save justice and charity.

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670



Written by LW

November 24, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I was supposed to say, ‘In a pig’s eye you are,’ what came out was, ‘In a pig’s ass you are.’ Old habits die awfully hard.”*…


Explore expletives at “Strong Language.” (Though it probably goes without saying: NSFW.)

Special word-lover’s bonus:


* Ava Gardner, Ava: My Story


As we flirt with forswearing swearing, we might recall that it was on this date in 1644, at the height of the English Civil War, that Milton’s Areopagitica (or Areopagitica; A speech of Mr. John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing, to the Parlament of England) was published.  An impassioned philosophical attack on censorship and defense of the principle of a right to freedom of speech and expression, it is regarded as one of the most eloquent arguments for press freedom ever written; indeed, many of its principles form the basis for modern justifications of that right.



Written by LW

November 23, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Opposites attract”*…


Indian food is categorically delicious: its flavors are complex, oscillating between sweet, savory, and spicy; its textures meld creamy sauces with doughy breads and tender meat and vegetables to make the slop of dreams. It’s a divine synthesis that is aromatic and sophisticated without being bougie. Hell, you can get a better-than-decent plate of it for nary more than the cost of a deli sandwich.

But what is it that makes Indian food so endlessly rich and tasty? Scientists were wondering, too, and recently performed an analysis of 2,500 recipes to find out…

Find illumination (and a timely life lesson) at “There’s a Scientific Reason Why Indian Food Is So Delicious.”

* Proverb


As we dive into the dal, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that Arlo Guthrie’s anthemic “Alice’s Restaurant was released.  In 1965 (then 18-year-old) Arlo Guthrie and his friend Richard Robbins were arrested by Stockbridge, MA police officer William “Obie” Obanhein for illegally dumping a bag a garbage after eating Thanksgiving dinner at Alice’s Restaurant.  Guthrie and Robbins pled guilty, were fined $50 dollars each, and sentenced to pick up their garbage.  Guthrie memorialized the incident in “The Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” which he first performed live on WBAI radio (a listener-supported station in New York); the song was so popular that the station would play it only after a listener made a substantial donation.  Since then, as some readers will know, it’s become traditional for many classic rock radio stations to play the song each Thanksgiving.


Written by LW

November 22, 2015 at 1:01 am


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