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  • Joseph Nebus 6:00 pm on Friday, 3 March, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cecil Adams, , The Straight Dope   

    How To Use Roman Numerals (A Not Quite Useful Guide) 

    I haven’t got the chance to write a proper essay today, but did want to be sure people didn’t miss The Straight Dope this week. Cecil Adams gets the question “How did anyone do math in Roman numerals?” and does what he can to answer in a couple hundred words of newspaper space.

    It’ll disappoint you if you have visions of whipping through a quadratic equation written all in V’s and L’s and stuff. Roman numeral arithmetic is really easy for addition and subtraction. Multiplication and division turn into real challenges for which you need mechanical aid and the abacus. Adams describes this loosely, although not in enough detail that you’ll come away confident with your abacus. Fair enough. I’ve got a charming little abacus myself, someone’s gift to me, and I can’t use it even to the slight extent I can use a slide rule.

    The important thing, though, is that as a young know-it-all Cecil Adams’s first two books, The Straight Dope and The Return of the Straight Dope, were just magnificently important reading. Not as hefty as David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace’s The People’s Almanac 2, but with a much higher fascinating-stuff-to-boring-stuff ratio. Stuff on Oak Island’s Treasure Pit and the (former) names of New York City boroughs and the like. I’m glad it’s still there.

    • Biff Sock Pow 10:16 pm on Friday, 3 March, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Great post! I used to enjoy The Straight Dope when I first moved to Dallas in the 1980s. I want to say he was printed in the Dallas Observer, along with another literary titan of the time, Joe Bob Briggs (back when he just wrote spot-on movie reviews and wry observations about the local scene). But many of those brain cells from way back then are deceased, and so I could be misremembering the whole thing. Also, I still have my copy of The People’s Almanac (Roman numeral uno) that I purchased brand-spanking new back in 1975 or so. As a youth with lots of time on my hands, I read it cover to cover (all 1446 pages of it), slowing down in the more prurient parts, of course. It was an awesome book! Thanks for the trip down memory lane! Made me feel like I was XVI again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joseph Nebus 4:55 am on Saturday, 11 March, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        I’m glad hearing all this. I never saw The Straight Dope in newspapers, just in the book forms, tucked into the fascinating-miscellaneous books section of the library. And so read it a lot, over and over. The People’s Almanac 2 was one that my family had for some reason or other. We never had Almanac 1, and I never saw a copy. In college the newspaper office did briefly have a copy of The People’s Almanac 3 but I didn’t get the chance to absorb that nearly so well.

        Liked by 1 person

  • Joseph Nebus 4:17 pm on Tuesday, 6 January, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cecil Adams, , extraterrestrial intelligences, Frank Drake, , Monty Python, mythology, snoring, uniqueness,   

    Reading the Comics, January 6, 2015: First of the Year Edition 

    I apologize for not writing as thoughtfully about the comics this week as I’d like, but it’s been a bit of a rushed week and I haven’t had the chance to do pop-mathematics writing of the kind I like, which is part of why you aren’t right now seeing a post about goldfish. All should be back to normal soon. I’m as ever not sure which is my favorite comic of the bunch this week; I think Bewley may have the strongest, if meanest, joke in it, though as you can see by the text Candorville gave me the most to think about.

    Ryan Pagelow’s Buni (December 31) saw out the year with a touch of anthropomorphic-numerals business. Never worry, 4; your time will come again.

    Daniel Beyer’s Long Story Short (January 1) plays a little on the way a carelessly-written Z will morph so easily into a 2, and vice-versa, which serves as a reminder to the people who give out alphanumeric confirmation codes: stop using both 0’s and O’s, and 1’s and I’s, and 2’s and Z’s, in the same code already. I know in the database there’s no confusion about this but in the e-mail you sent out and in the note we wrote down at the airport transcribing this over the phone, there is. And now that it’s mentioned, why is the letter Z used to symbolize snoring? Nobody is sure, but Cecil Adams and The Straight Dope trace it back to the comics, with Rudolph Dirks’s The Katzenjammer Kids either the originator or at least the popularizer of the snoring Z.

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    • LFFL 5:18 am on Wednesday, 7 January, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      That is SO YOU in that comic strip. Lol.


    • ivasallay 1:48 am on Thursday, 8 January, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I really liked Joe’s Vanilla! The Dark Side of the Horse is also very good, as it seems to always be.


      • Joseph Nebus 1:30 am on Sunday, 11 January, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        I’m surprised on looking it over how often Dark Side Of The Horse turns up and with pretty solidly-constructed jokes. I never hear any kind of buzz about it so don’t know if anybody else likes it, but it’s at least consistently entertaining.


    • SASS-A-FR-ASS 5:33 am on Friday, 9 January, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I just nominated you for the inspiring blogger award.
      As I am still learning the rope’s I haven’t a clue how to link you to my post here so please checkout my blog post SASS-A-FIED BLOGGER AWARD (MAYBE…!) post for your nomination.
      Cheers!! :)


      • Joseph Nebus 1:32 am on Sunday, 11 January, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Goodness, thank you. I’m most flattered.

        Liked by 1 person

        • SASS-A-FR-ASS 3:40 am on Sunday, 11 January, 2015 Permalink | Reply

          I’ve yet had the chance to let you know I enjoy your blog and to thank you for supporting me by popping in on occasion.
          As I am fairly new to wordpress I realize that I won’t be winning any awards anytime soon so a nomination was plenty enough for me. :)
          You however have an amazing blog and so the nomination is well deserved as would be any awards!! :)


          • Joseph Nebus 9:20 pm on Monday, 12 January, 2015 Permalink | Reply

            Thank you. And I imagine you’ll be surprised; people like nominating blogs they read for various things. But being appreciated is the best feeling to accompany writing.

            Liked by 1 person

    • vagabondurges 7:42 am on Saturday, 24 January, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Arg, I want to go to bed so badly, so sleeepy, but I have to finish this dang jumble first! Why am I so bad at anagrams?


      • Joseph Nebus 10:35 pm on Sunday, 25 January, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        They can be maddening, can’t they? My problem is that every single time they put in a scramble of ‘Object’ I can’t work it out. I insist on the ‘J’ going up at front where it just doesn’t work for this group of letters.


  • Joseph Nebus 12:58 am on Thursday, 10 May, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: analysis of variance, anova, Cecil Adams, Chi-Squared Test, correlation, correlation coefficient, , Karl Pearson, , mean median and mode, pearson publishing, Ronald Fisher, standard deviation,   

    Who Was Karl Pearson? 

    An offhanded joke in the Usenet newsgroup alt.fan.cecil-adams — a great spot for offhanded jokes, as the audience is reasonably demanding — about baseball being a game of statistics but this is ridiculous prompted me to say I hoped the Pearson Chi-Squared Test had a good season since it was at the core of my baseball statistics fantasy team. One respondent asked if this was connected to Pearson Publishing, which has recently screwed up its composition of standardized tests for New York State quite severely, including giving as a reading comprehension assignment a bit of nonsense composed to have no meaning, and twenty mistakes in the non-English translation of a math exam. There’s no connection of which I’m aware; but, why not take a couple paragraphs to talk about Karl Pearson?

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