Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Life Humor 2.5

A book review:
Title: David Frost's Book of the World's Worst Decisions
Author: Frost, David & Michael Deakin
Publisher: Crown Publishers, Inc.
Date: 1983

David Frost is a well-known TV personality. Michael Deakin is programming director for a television station founded by Frost in England. This book is a collection of truly bad decisions from the fields of politics, sports, business, science, show business, and everyday life.

Sam Phillips owned a small recording company in Memphis. In 1955 he sold to RCA Records, for the sum of $35,000, the exclusive contract he had with a young man named Elvis Presley, thereby forfeiting royalties on more than a billion records.

In 1977 a South African hang-gliding instructor spotted an interesting sight and made an obscene gesture at a woman who was sunbathing on a rooftop below his flight path. The woman's husband appeared with a submachine gun and blasted the birdman out of the sky.

In 1880 a house master at Harrow wrote of one of his pupils, "He is forgetful, careless, unpunctual, irregular in every way.... If he is unable to conquer this slovenliness he will never make a success of public school." The boy in question was Winston Churchill.

In 1886 prospector Sors Hariezon decided to sell his South African gold claim for $20. Over the next 90 years, mines sunk on or near his claim produced over a million kilograms of gold a year, 70% of the gold supply of the Western world.


From the San Jose Mercury News, Monday afternoon 1 July 1985:

Cats scratched from Boston jury

You've heard of a kangaroo court. Now from the Massachusetts Office of the Jury Commissioner comes the feline jury.

David Christian's pets, Cat Mousam and Leo A. Longfellow, took on new identities in the Boston Election Department. The department, which compiles the census, had fabricated entire identities for Mousam and her "stepbrother" cat, Longfellow, whose name was also listed on Christian's door.

Mousam, said to be born in 1956, and Longfellow, born in 1953, were both listed as nurses.

Registrar of Voters Charles Scordino said the department uses meter maids, crossing guards, and off-duty police officers to take the census, and said if voters aren't home, their names are often taken off doors and mailboxes.

"Evidently, someone made a mistake somewhere," said Scordino.

Christian, the cats' owner, figures the jury list was made up after city census takers took the cats' names off his front door.

"It's not going to reflect on the Elections Commission over there. It's going to reflect on us. We're going to look stupid summoning a cat," said Francine Thomas, secretary to the State Jury Commissioner.

Cat Mousam was in fact ordered to report for jury duty Aug. 7. But she has since been taken off the jury list.

"It's funny, they didn't disqualify her because she was a cat," said Christian, 40, a psychiatric social worker. "They disqualified her because she can't speak English."


Survey of proof techniques

I recently came across a survey of proof techniques that I remembered reading a few years back. Many of you have probably already seen it but I thought that it might be a helpful guide for anyone whose educational background has been so lacking as to have missed it. The survey was written by Dana Angluin. His professional association was not given. Luckily, the survey is short enough to present here:

Proof by intimidation:

Proof by omission:
'The reader may easily supply the details.'
'The other 253 cases are analogous....'

Proof by eminent authority:
'I saw Karp in the elevator and he said it was probably NP-complete.'

Proof by reference to inaccessible literature:
The author cites a simple corollary of a theorem to be found in a privately circulated memoir of the Slovenian Philological Society, 1883.


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