There I was, trying to do some serious Sports Illustrated work, when I saw these two squirrels out the window. They were leaping straight up, as if electrically jolted. I grabbed a camera and shot this brief video. I'm guessing the squirrels were young ones.
Depending on what source you consult, you'll read that a baby squirrel is called either a kit, a kitten, a pup, a Jake (male), a Jenny (female) or simply a baby squirrel. I'm not sure all of those are legit terms. Nevertheless, and even though males and females are indistinguishable without a close underbody inspection (you want to try?), I'm going to call our video star Jake. May we all have as much fun today as he did.
Out of This World
Fifty years ago today Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to travel in space. Small in stature—he stood only 5'2"—and flashing what became known as the smile "that lit up the Cold War," Gagarin spent less than two hours outside the Earth's atmosphere and completed one 108-minute orbit of the the planet. He died in a suspicious training-flight jet crash at age 34. Here's a quick look at his historic flight:
If you want to watch a nearly two-our recreation of what Gagarin saw on his first orbit, reconstructed using footage from the International Space Station, check out this YouTube movie. Keep in mind that before Gagarin, no human being had ever seen what the Earth looks like. As you ponder the history of humankind, that is serious food for thought.
It's perhaps inappropriate to show this, but really, you don't see anything. Here is a photo of the act of procreation of two wild turkeys in our driveway. Yes, this looks much more comfortable for the male than for the squashed female beneath him.
Answer to Last Puzzlers:
1) Word scramble:
a) magpie (egipam)
b) albatross (broslatas)
c) tsunami (mintaus)
d) octopus (spootuc)
e) tortoise (erotosit)
2) The check was for $31.63. The cashier mistakenly gave him $63.31 instead, and after he spent a nickel he had $63.26 left—exactly twice as much as the original check.
Let's try another math/logic challenge from the late master, Henry Dudeney. This one seems apt, now that the ground has thawed enough to put a shovel in it:
During one of his rambles, Professor Rackbrane chanced to come across a man digging a deep hole.
“Good morning”, said the professor. “How deep is that hole?”
“Guess”, replied the laborer. “My height is exactly 5 feet 10 inches”.“How much deeper are you going?” asked the professor. “I am going twice as deep,” was the answer, “and then my head will be twice as far below ground as it is now above ground.”
How deep would that hole be when it was finished?
Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia-born President, would have turned 268 years old on Wednesday. Never mind his other, minor accomplishments, such as writing the Declaration of Independence, or his glaring hypocrisy in keeping slaves after loftily pronouncing that "all men are created equal." Jefferson saw himself first and foremost as a farmer. He was constantly experimenting with plants and agricultural methods, and on his estate at Monticello, he grew 170 types of fruits and 330 varieties of vegetables and herbs. His terraced gardens have been restored and are another reason to put Monticello on your list of places to visit (or re-visit).
Mervyn Cowie, the Kenyan-born conservationist who was the driving force in establishing the first national parks in East Africa, would have been 102. An accountant by trade, Cowie was appalled at the decline of Kenya's large mammals in the 1930s and began promoting the idea of a park system. Ignored, he manipulated public opinion by writing a letter to a newspaper under a false name arguing that all of Kenya's wild animals must be killed. The outraged response forced the government to set up the first national park board, overseen by Cowie, who eventually became the father of eco-tourism in Africa.
Alfred Butts, the Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-born architect and amateur artist who invented Scrabble, would have been 112 on Wednesday. Butts was unemployed and living in Jackson Heights, Queens, when he decided to create a board game to try to make money. In designing a game that combined anagrams and crossword puzzles, he studied the front page of The New York Times to determine how often each letter was used. That's how he figured out how many of each letter tile to include. His initial version of the game, which he first called Lexiko and then called Criss-Cross Words, was rejected by game publishers for two decades. Eventually game buff and entrepreneur James Brunot bought it and renamed it Scrabble, a word that means "to grope frantically." Butts himself could appreciate that sense of grasping in vain: He could never beat his wife, Nina, at the game he invented.