This Day in History Entry #124

June 28th, 2011 by Wordsman

“Oh it’s taken me years now to hone
Meant to bridge gap ‘tween flute and trombone
Though it looks like a brass
As a woodwind ’twill pass
I shall call it: the Saxo-ma-phone!”

Event: Adolphe Sax patents the saxophone
Year: 1846
Learn more:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #59

June 27th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 映画館 B. 教会 C. 大使館 D. 図書館 E. 病院 F. 郵便局

And we’re back.  As usual, I will refrain from asking whether a week without kanji was a disappointment or a relief.

Theoman seems to have the most expertise here, so if you’re lost in Japan, I would recommend giving him the map.  On the other hand, his process-of-elimination style of navigation could be rather nerve-wracking.  I don’t know about you, but if my tour guide said, “Well, I don’t know what this sign means, and I don’t know the word for ’embassy,’ so this must be the embassy,” I would strongly consider parting ways.  Sure, it could be the embassy . . . but it could also be an abattoir, a pawn shop, or the local Legitimate Businessman’s Social Club.  In this case, however, he is correct.  C is the embassy.  Congratulations!  You are safe on U.S. soil.  Unless of course, he has managed to accidentally lead you to the Venezuelan Embassy.

Dragon, on the other hand, should have the map kept away from her at all costs.  To be fair, if you’re looking for a hospital, the embassy is probably a better place to go than, say, the library or the post office–and hopefully you’re not lost for so long that you need a church–but I, personally, would rather go to the hospital.  It’s right there at E, see?  With the characters meaning “sickness” and “institution”?

Also, if Dragon would like to make sure that she really has seen Chariots of Fire, she can go to A, the movie theater.

Shirley got a nice lead-off hit by identifying B as the church, though the second character actually refers to meeting or coming together rather than symbolizing a pagoda.  And she was close on D, which is not the movie theater but a much older version of the movie theater, which we used to call a library.  We will hope there is no meaning in the fact that she finds herself drawn to the hospital and instead praise the second correct process-of-elimination guess this week: F is the post office.

For this week’s puzzle we will do something a little different.  Listed below are the five most common surnames in Japan today.  It is often said that in the U.S., while there are a relatively small number of frequently used given names, there is near infinite variety in surnames.  In East Asia the situation tends to be the reverse, and while it is much more true in China and Korea, Japan also has a relatively limited number of very common surnames and a wider variety of given names.  Anyway, this puzzle will be a little different because there are several different things you can do.  You can choose to order the names from most popular to least popular, based on which ones you like better or whatever bizarre methods you usually employ for KYPC.  On the other hand, you can try to guess how they are pronounced, as chances are you may have heard of at least one famous person that has each of these names (those with actual knowledge of how kanji are pronounced are discouraged from choosing this option).  Finally, you can attempt to guess what the names mean.

A. 佐藤 B. 鈴木 C. 高橋 D. 田中 E. 渡辺

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The Confluence Part 4

June 24th, 2011 by Wordsman

Day 232:

Interviews complete. No conductor has ever seen suspect on a train. No LCTA personnel have ever sighted suspect in another station. Does suspect never leave Simon Park? How long has she been there? How does she survive?

Investigate: theft.

Further incidence of citizen-initiated contact. Should citizens be warned? If no one comes near, evidence of suspect’s wrongdoing will be difficult to find. Other lines of inquiry proving unfruitful. Must continue to rely on public’s unwitting cooperation for sake of justice.

Record of contact follows:

Asian-American male, late teens, walks rapidly away from suspect after standard rejection interaction. In three days of close observation, have seen 137 rejections. Where does suspect find will to persist despite repeated failure? (Officer Tang’s keen eye was considered matchless by the other officers of the Crescenton Police Department, but since she never used it while she was looking in the mirror, she was not able to detect that, perhaps, she and the woman in Simon Park Station had one thing in common.)

Investigate: drugs.

African-American female, late 30’s, approaches suspect. Female seems to have been listening to previous conversation. She squats near suspect, easily within attack range (Gun out of holster, safety off, cocked).

Female: “Excuse me. I’m a telemarketer, and I just wanted to let you know that I feel your pain. No one listens anymore. All I’m doing is offering them something. I understand that not everyone wants to buy what I’m selling, but the least they can do is find out what it is. Most people just hang up after, ‘Would you be interested in—’ . . . so, in my head, I usually end it with, ‘—purchasing a solid gold house for the low, low price of $1.99?’”

Investigate: real estate fraud.

Suspect, at first perplexed, scowls out of agreement (?) or general villainy (!) “Don’t I know it! Everyone just loves to think that they’re too busy to deal with me, as if their time was so valuable that simply paying attention to me for thirty seconds would be some kind of colossal loss. A lot of these jerks say, ‘Sorry, not interested,’ and then they go over there and stare at the wall for five minutes while they’re waiting for the damn train to come!”

Female appears close to tears (effect of a chemical weapon?) “I-it’s just so dehumanizing . . .”

Suspect in similar state (weapon misfire?) “Sometimes . . . I feel like I can’t go on . . .”

Suspect and female burst into obnoxiously loud wailing, hug. Subway passengers regard pair warily, give wide berth. Crying persists for several minutes.

Female: “By the way, you wouldn’t happen to be interested in buying a subscription to—”

Suspect: “No way. But, don’t you feel that there’s something missing from—”

Female: “Nothing I’d expect to find in a subway station.”

Suspect and Female release, regard each other fondly. Female: “Sorry about that.”

Suspect: “I know. Just had to get it out of the way.”

Investigate: public indecency?

Empathy was not Officer Tang’s strong suit, in much the same way as elephants are not known for their delicacy, but she had some skill at reading suspects. She hadn’t the foggiest clue as to their motives, but she could generally tell when they were about to run, pull a gun, etc. The vibe she was getting from the subway woman was loud and clear: she was nearing the breaking point.

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This Day in History Entry #123

June 21st, 2011 by Wordsman

Far away from the fierce battle plain
In a temple he would meet his bane
A disloyal cohort
Chose to cut his life short
Brought a premature end to his reign

Event: The “Incident at Honnō-ji”: The warlord Oda Nobunaga is attacked by his traitorous retainer Akechi Mitsuhide and forced to commit suicide at Honnō-ji Temple
Year: 1582
Learn more:

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The Confluence Part 3

June 17th, 2011 by Wordsman

Day 231:

After long stakeout, have concluded that suspect does nothing before commuters arrive in morning. Sleeping? Possibly. Thinking? Plotting? Likely.

Consult department psychologist for profile. What could she be planning?

Beginning study of how suspect chooses targets. Possible factors:
1. perceived vulnerability
2. receptiveness to her aims
3. walking speed

After extensive observation, have concluded that factors, with possible exception of #3, are irrelevant. Sampling appears to be random.

On occasion, citizens approach her instead. Following dialogue recorded for later analysis/submission as evidence:

White male, age 7-9, walks up to suspect. “Are you a princess?”

Suspect responds slowly. “What?”

White male: “I think you’re a witch, but my sister says you’re a princess.” Male looks back. White female, age 4-6, can be seen hiding ineffectively behind nearby pillar.

Suspect sighs (regretting the past? Or the atrocities she is about to commit? Gun out of holster, safety off, cocked). “I am not a princess.”

Male turns around, grinning. “I told you she was a witch!”

Female leaves hiding place, runs furiously up to male. “Nuh-uh! Nuh-uh! She has to be a princess, because, because Mr. Bear said so!”

Male: “Mr. Bear’s just a dumb stuffed animal.”

Female: “No he’s not! You’re dumb!”

Male: “Shut up!”

Male strikes female in arm. Female begins wailing piercingly. White male, early 30’s, approaches rapidly. “What did you do?”

After brief silence, suspect realizes question is directed at her. “I didn’t do anything.”

Young male: “She’s a witch, Dad! A real-life witch!” Wailing increases in volume.

Adult male picks up female, seizes young male’s hand. “You just stay the hell away from my kids, or I’m calling the cops!” Walks away quickly, looking concerned, perhaps frightened.

Investigate: child abuse. Will parents press charges? (unfortunately, having witnessed entire scene, cannot in good conscience accept father’s version of events as true. Remember: vigilance always has a price).

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This Day in History Entry #122

June 14th, 2011 by Wordsman

Charles’ engine did not quite get done
(Though ’twas proved that it could well have run)
Six-point-five score years passed
Seeming not at all fast
But computers had still just begun

Events: Charles Babbage proposes a “difference engine” in a paper to the Royal Astronomical Society; UNIVAC I, the first commercial computer produced in the United States, is dedicated
Years: 1822; 1951
Learn more:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #58

June 13th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 戦場にかける橋 B. 波止場 C. 羊たちの沈黙 D. 普通の人々

E. 許されざる者 F. 夜の大捜査線

A Fan feels strongly about his movies and somewhat less strongly about the sanctity of the Academy’s Best Picture award.  He should perhaps have saved some of his second batch of guesses, though, as I reserve the right to present a “Should’ve Been Best Picture” puzzle at some later date.  I like to think that none of the ones I put up were too terrible, and this hope is somewhat backed up by the fact that none of his first batch of guesses can be found on this list.  I feel like I should give him something, though, so I will say that he was closest on D, which is Ordinary People.  It certainly sounds boring, anyway.

Theoman gave me the benefit of the doubt in terms of taste, but unfortunately it didn’t pay off.  His kanji knowledge, which had served him quite well the past few weeks, failed him, and his “one” sailed far over the cuckoo’s nest, missing the list entirely.  We’ll give him partial credit for getting the right number of words in A, and, in fact, they both have the same fourth word.  The word is “the.”

We at the Wordsman are rather distressed to learn that Dragon has never seen Chariots of Fire, The Sting, or either of the good parts of the Godfather trilogy.  She is an expert on Gandhi, though, which allowed her to figure out that it is not on this list.  Unfortunately, Lawrence of Arabia is not either.  C is Silence of the Lambs–a good movie, but one which, unlike some of the others she missed, it may be forgivable to pass over.

So at this point you’re probably thinking that no one got anything correct this week.  And you would be absolutely . . . WRONG!  Shirley decided to put together a list that was basically the opposite of A Fan’s, and she struck paydirt straight off the bat: A is The Bridge on the River Kwai, though the Japanese title is the somewhat less specific “Bridge on the Battlefield.”  None of the rest of her guesses was correct, but hey, the way everybody else was swinging, one out of six ain’t half bad.  And she even identified another picture that appeared on the list: On the Waterfront (or, in Japanese, simply “Waterfront”) is B, not F.

Finally, at E, we have Unforgiven.  And F?  Well, you wanna know what they call me?  They call me Mister Wordsman.  And if you can’t figure it out from that, it’s your own fault.

But let’s do something a little less complicated this week.  I’m going to pull a challenge pretty much straight from my old first-year Japanese textbook, and we’re going to try to identify types of buildings.  If you can’t stop thinking about your favorite films after last week’s challenge, you can look for the movie theater.  If you prefer something a little more old-fashioned, check out the library.  In case of emergencies, look for the hospital, and in case it’s, uh, Sunday, try to find the church.  The post office is there too, and so is the embassy, because if you’re in another country, it sure can’t hurt to know where that is.

A. 映画館 B. 教会 C. 大使館 D. 図書館 E. 病院 F. 郵便局

NOTE: I will be somewhat busy next weekend, and I have the sneaking suspicion that the vast majority of my readership will as well, so there will likely not be a KYPC update next Monday.

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The Confluence Part 2

June 10th, 2011 by Wordsman

Day 230:

Despite legal obstacles, Officer Tang did not relent.  It is said that the early bird gets the worm, but the persistent bird learns the worm’s entire life, comes to know it inside and out (not that the inside and the outside of a worm are all that different).  In the end, the worm all but catches itself.  Of course, it is also said that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, but Officer Tang was not after flies.  She wanted that worm.

The woman’s situation had changed over the past few weeks.  As with all celebrities of her type, she was a flash in the pan, and her fame had been destined not to last from the instant the first wannabe journalist had mentioned her in his blog.  Besides, it was summer now, and people had lost interest in indoor attractions.  If she had been the Old Woman of Morrison Park she might have stood a chance, but she was in a subway station, where the air would only turn fouler as June became July became August.

Officer Tang hoped that her disappearance from the public eye would lead the woman to slip up, so she observed her at every possible opportunity.  She took very detailed notes.

Suspect continues to approach passersby with odd questions. (In her notebook she always referred to the woman as “suspect,” even though she had no idea what she suspected her of.  As soon as she figured that out, there would be no more need for the notebook.)  Can this be construed as a form of harassment?  Negative.  Those who want to leave can do so freely; those who want to listen stay.

Investigate: conspiracy.  Does she ever talk to same person on multiple occasions?  Need more observers.

Citizen approaches.  Suspect begins usual speech.  Citizen reaches into pocket, tosses handful of change in suspect’s face.  Does not stop, speak, or look at her.  Suspects sits quietly, does not pick up coins, looks dazed.

Investigate: money laundering.

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This Day in History Entry #121

June 7th, 2011 by Wordsman

Before royal tempers could flare
The two countries decided to share
Ferdinand got the west
Portugal got the rest
How could anything else have been fair?

Event: Spain and Portugal sign the Treaty of Tordesillas, dividing the New World between them
Year: 1494
Learn more:
See also:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #57

June 6th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. オペラ座の怪人 B. 猫 C. 美女と野獣 D. 惨め者達 E. 家賃

F. 屋根の上のバイオリン弾き

Not quite enough answers this week to stage a full musical, but we might be able to put together one of those quirky off-Broadway shows.

To the tune of “Gaston”:

When I was a lad I took Japanese class every spring, summer, winter and fall
And in those classes we learned katakana, so I basic’lly can read them ALLLLLLLLLL!

We at the Wandering Wordsman have ruled that looking up the list is not cheating, which is lucky for you, as we are bound to pursue any criminal to the ends of the earth, like the relentless Javert.  Presumably the list helped Theoman pick out #8 on the long-run list, Beauty and the Beast, as letter C, while he was busy scorning A and F.  But was he telling the truth or merely bluffing when he claimed to be able to identify B as #2, Cats?  I guess we’ll never know.  We will also leave it up to the world to wonder whether you got it because you saw the character for “woman” or because you realized it was the only one on the list to come in the form “_____ and _____”

To the tune of “Master of the House”:

Master of the site
Tripping up the folks
Puzzling their minds and telling awful jokes
Setting up his traps
Laying out the bait
Mocking their misfortune when they can’t think straight

We agree with Shirley that F is certainly long enough to deserve to be Les Mis, but unfortunately it is not.  Here we have #14, Fiddler on the Roof.  This is one of the three that actually uses what I wrote as its Japanese title; the others are C and A, the unstoppable Phantom.  Those miserable ones are hiding over at D, trying to stay away from the misguided revolutions, racist forced relocations and angry mobs that are running rampant through this puzzle (and you thought Chicago was bad!)  Next to them, and not much better off, E represents the struggles of the poverty-stricken to get enough together to pay the Rent.

By the way, last week’s bonus answer was: Memorial Day->”Memory”->Cats->Musicals

I rather liked that puzzle idea, but I’m guessing you won’t be too happy about having to do musicals two weeks in a row, so we’re modifying the topic slightly.  This time around it’s Best Picture Winners.  Every movie on the following list has won an Academy Award for Best Picture, and, unlike last week, everything listed here actually goes by this title in Japan.  I know that’s a lot of choices, so I’ll narrow it down for you a little: none of the choices is from the past fifteen years, and none are more than sixty years old.

A. 戦場にかける橋 B. 波止場 C. 羊たちの沈黙 D. 普通の人々

E. 許されざる者 F. 夜の大捜査線

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