This Day in History Entry #85

September 28th, 2010 by Wordsman

Things were fine under Confessor Ed
But without heir he found himself dead
Throne of England to fill
In came Conqueror Bill
‘Cross the island the Normans did spread

Event: Norman invasion of England begins
Year: 1066
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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #24

September 27th, 2010 by Wordsman

A. 沖縄 B. 九州 C. 四国 D. 北海道 E. 本州

Clearly this past week’s challenge was much too simple, barely worthy of the name “challenge” at all.  Not only did two of the three guessers come up with the correct answer, but one of them swept the board, an unprecedented KYPC feat as far as I can remember.  Whether by using pronunciation or thinking inside the box, Dragon and Theoman both found their way to C quite easily.  Let’s just hope that they feel considerable shame at having solved the puzzle without bothering to learn anything at all about temples, unlike Shirley.  While she failed to come up with the correct answer, she has probably managed to win the goodwill of the people of Kyushu by saying that B, their island, is so pretty.  And in the end, isn’t that what really counts?  Though as I look back, I notice that she also called Shikoku unattractive, so I guess she’s par for the course.

In case anyone did not tune in to Theoman’s mighty streak, I will point out that A is Okinawa (the “open sea rope,” which means we’re talking about kanji used for sound, not meaning, here), B is Kyushu (the “nine states”), C is Shikoku, (the “four provinces”), D is Hokkaido (the “northern sea road,” though despite the presence of the character for north, I think this name is mainly an attempt to imitate the indigenous people’s name for the island), and E is Honshu (the “origin state”).

Anyway, it’s obvious that you people are too smart for my own good.  It’s time to beat some sense out of you with a really challenging challenge.  Hmm . . . sense . . . I’ve got it!  Another geography puzzle, just for Dragon!  No, wait!  We’ll have a puzzle about senses.  Where would we be without senses?  Completely unable to interact with the world around us, for one thing.  We would also be very bored.  Thus I present a cure for boredom: try to figure out which sense is which.  Feel free to use any of your own senses to help you come up with the answer, though, for the sake of your monitor, I have to recommend against employing your sense of taste.  Because of the recent disappointingly stellar performance, I’ll have you try to pick out the sense of touch, the broadest and most poorly defined of the five senses.  Other than that it should be easy, because there are only five senses . . . or are there?

A. 嗅覚 B. 視覚 C. 触覚 D. 第六感 E. 聴覚 F. 平衡覚 G. 味覚

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The Jenoviad Entry #85

September 24th, 2010 by Wordsman

Shortly after, Cloud was woke
By a terrific THUD
Found his cell door open, and . . .
“Wow.  That’s a lot of blood

“Hey, wake up!”  “Huh?  What?  We’re free?”
“Hmm . . . who would let us out?”
“Whoa, that’s strange.  JENOVA’s gone.”
“Don’t know what that’s about”

Up and up the blood trail wound
Until the very top
There they saw a grisly scene
That caused them all to stop

At his desk, the Shinra Prez
His face looked almost bored
There, protruding from his back
Was a five-foot-long sword

“This was the work of Sephiroth!”
Cloud’s shock could not be greater
“Sephiroth?” the others asked
Said Cloud, “Uh, tell ya later”

Cowering behind the desk
Was a short, porcine man
“Yep, he’s right!” Palmer declared
Before he up and ran

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This Day in History Entry #84

September 21st, 2010 by Wordsman

For ignoring all physical laws
Mr. Church merits thund’rous applause
It’s not science, it’s true
But here science falls through
Oh yes, readers: there’s a Santa Claus

Event: The “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” editorial, written by Francis Pharcellus Church, appears in the New York Sun
Year: 1897
Learn more:,_Virginia,_there_is_a_Santa_Claus

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #23

September 20th, 2010 by Wordsman

A. 折り紙 B. 将軍 C. 大君 D. 津波 E. 俳句 F. 盆栽 G. 帝

We at the Wandering Wordsman would like to welcome back Shirley.  Let it never be said that we do not appreciate her attitude (valor is indeed the better part of discretion, at least in this game).  We also would have liked to celebrate her triumphant return, but, unfortunately, it seems like she has a little rust to knock off after her long vacation.  Her numerous guesses, while highly entertaining, were entirely wrong.  But that’s okay.  Experts in second-language acquisition have found that sometimes the best thing your students can do is to make mistakes.

This week provided an interesting variety of viewpoints on character A.  Shirley saw it and reeled in terror.  Dragon, on the other hand, perceived it as simple math.  Theoman thought it looked like folded paper, which is exactly what it is: origami.  Also interesting to note is a fact that I think most of you did not realize, which is that the second character is not a kanji.  The ri in origami is a hiragana character, and it means only that: the sound ri.  Knowing your picture characters is key, but it takes more than that to be able to read Japanese.

B was the only completely ignored item on the list this time, and I don’t think it was particularly wise of you to snub the shogun like that.  On the other hand, the tycoon (or taikun) received plenty of attention.  This was a word used to describe the most powerful man in Japan before they borrowed the Chinese idea of calling him an Emperor, though I believe most people think the alternate pronunciation of ookimi was more commonly used.  And I’m sure he would have appreciated being compared to poetry, as Shirley did.

D is our tsunami, and if you want a way to remember that, you can say that the two characters are images of water (left side) falling against buildings (right side).  Shirley was closest in her attempted identification of E, but she mixed her visual arts up with her written ones: it is not the simple grace of folded paper but the simple grace of the three-line haiku.  I agree that F has a lot going on, and it does almost call to mind the topsy-turvydom of an operetta at the Savoy, but it is, in fact, bonsai (all those little branches needing to be trimmed, I suppose).  Which leaves us with, last but not least, G as the mikado.  He was a little upset at first that no one guessed him, and also that someone thought he looked like a miniature tree, but we talked it over and decided to let the punishment fit the crime: those people who failed to figure out the correct answer will be forced to continue participating in the game week after week after week.

This week’s punishment will be geography, specifically, islands of Japan.  For those of you not familiar with the layout of Japan, it consists of way too many islands to list them all here, so we’re only going to be working with five of the better known ones: Honshu, the big one; Hokkaido, the one up north; Kyushu, the one down south; Shikoku, the one that’s all tucked away down there; and Okinawa, the one that’s far away from all the rest.  Since I believe all of my readers have met at least one person from Shikoku, I’ll have you try to find that one.  (Quick reminder to those with insider information: let other people have a chance to guess before you jump in).

A. 沖縄 B. 九州 C. 四国 D. 北海道 E. 本州

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The Jenoviad Entry #84

September 17th, 2010 by Wordsman

After battle: “What’s your name?
Can’t call you ‘Cat,’” Cloud said
“My tattoo just says, ‘Thirteen’
But you may call me Red”

Barret said, “Let’s blow this joint!
With Shinra we are through”
Tifa said, “Let’s take the stairs”
“Nah.  Elevator’ll do”

Tifa muttered all the way
To the el’vator shaft
Their attention was to fore
But she kept glancing aft

Inside, Cloud said, “We’re home free!”
And Aeris added, “Yup!”
A voice said, “You’re not going down
Looks like the jig is . . .

The five of them were rounded up
And brought before the Prez
The Prez said all the normal things
That any villain says

Soon they found themselves in cells
A-pondering their fate
Cloud was wond’ring when it was
The last time that he ate

Barret tried to recruit Red
Red did not make a peep
Aeris heard the Planet speak
Cloud just went straight to sleep

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This Day in History Entry #83

September 14th, 2010 by Wordsman

Perhaps modern psych’s most famous bit
It began with a study of spit
And you are quite the fool
If you think canine drool
Can’t teach us about learning-now SIT!

Event: Birth of Ivan Pavlov, first to describe the phenomenon of classical conditioning
Year: 1849
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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #22

September 13th, 2010 by Wordsman

A. 角行 B. 香車 C. 銀将 D. 桂馬 E. 飛車 F. 歩兵

Anyone who knows anything about chess knows that a good opening is crucial to eventual victory.  I’ve never played shogi (and, for that matter, I’ve never played chess effectively), but I assume the same principle applies.  Our opening this week was provided by Dragon, who came out guessing D.  This is known as the “Disregard What the Wordsman Says Opening,” because she chose the one with crosses, saying that it must represent the bishop because he is a holy man.  In fact, her move could be considered a rare form known as the Double DWWS Opening, because not only did she ignore the fact that I said the typical English names of the Japanese pieces are related to how they move rather than what they are called, she also apparently forgot that the cross means “earth” and has no religious significance (remember?)  In any case, it was a bold move, and while I have been told that fortune favors the bold, it did not favor Dragon.  D is the knight, though its name actually means “cassia horse.”

While this challenge may have seemed impossible when I told you that the actual Japanese names for these pieces generally have nothing to do with their English ones, there is, in fact, one piece whose name is very similar to that of its English equivalent and one piece whose name literally describes its movement.  And the bishop is one of these two.  However, there are also two pieces that have no real equivalent in chess, so let’s get those out of the way.  B, the “incense chariot,” is known in English as the lance.  It is essentially a rook that can only move forward.  C, the “silver general,” is called just that in English.  It moves one space at a time in any of the eight directions except left, right, and backward.  F, by the way, is the “foot soldier,” and therefore the pawn, which you could probably guess pretty easily if you were looking at an actual shogi board, as there are a whole bunch of them out in the front row.

And now we arrive at the endgame.  We are down to two.  One is the bishop, and one not.  It would have been much more appropriately dramatic if our two remaining contestants had picked different answers, but, as so often happens in these challenges, they used completely unrelated strategies to come up with the same result.  Theoman may have been pleased to see that a portion of his hypothesis was confirmed in the description of B, but, if he has been paying attention, he may also have noticed that there is now only one character remaining with the wheel/chariot kanji, and the rook has yet to be introduced.  And A Fan made the all-too-common mistake of expecting kanji to be consistent.  Their choice, E, is the rook, going by its assumed shogi name of “flying chariot.”  Our friend the bishop was right in front all along, as letter A, the “angle goer.”

Okay, that one was hard.  I admit it.  So I’ll cut you guys some slack.  Up to this point, we’ve been working with words that could be considered strictly Japanese (at least as far as you can make such a claim about any language in today’s world).  But there is a nice long list of terms that have worked their way across the Pacific Ocean and now are used with relative ease in English.  Let’s take a look at a few of those.  Here we have three forms of art (bonsai, haiku, and origami), three “titles” (mikado, shogun, and tycoon), and one force of nature (tsunami).  Pick out what you want to identify, though if you’re one of those people who is distressed when given too much freedom, I’ll suggest that you try to find the haiku.

A. 折り紙 B. 将軍 C. 大君 D. 津波 E. 俳句 F. 盆栽 G. 帝

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The Jenoviad Entry #83

September 10th, 2010 by Wordsman

A furry comet shot from cage
Clamped onto Hojo’s face
Aeris thanked Cloud and gave him
A gentler embrace

“They tried to make me mate
With some . . . . exper’ment off some . . . shelf!”
The cat paused in his flailings
“Miss, you’re no looker yourself”

Aeris stammered, “Y-you can talk?”
“It’s really not that hard
But right now you should worry more
‘Bout Hojo’s final guard”

Hojo managed to break free
His face was scratched up bad
“Ha!  This is what you all get
For driving science

Up into the empty cell
Rose a creature of dread
Barret grumbled, “Why these things
Always got no damn head?”

Fortunately, this monster
Had bark worse than its bite
Sure, the thing looked really gross
But they beat it alright

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This Day in History Entry #82

September 7th, 2010 by Wordsman

Widely their notoriety rang
While in papers some their praises sang
But a surprising stroke
By some angry townsfolk
Spelled the end of the James-Younger Gang

Event: Resistance by armed citizens prevents the James-Younger gang from being able to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota
Year: 1876
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