Tag Archives: extraordinary

Playing Cards—Extraordinary Ordinary Things

When I was a kid, I had a passion for card tricks. One day someone showed me a card trick based on a mathematical formula. It was astonishing. He gave me the formula for doing it, but didn’t tell me how it worked, so I set about trying to figure it out for myself. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t see where the formula came from. I even asked a couple of high-powered students at CalTech (California Institute of Technology) for help. They said “Sure. Give us a couple of days and we will get back to you.” I never heard from them again.

Many years late, I did figure it out. I was extremely proud of myself, not because I had solved a very complex problem but because I had solved a very easy one. It just didn’t look easy when I first saw it, and for many years thereafter.

Card tricks still fascinate me, especially those based on mathematical formulas. I will tell you about this one a bit later in this blog. But first I would like to establish why playing cards themselves justly deserve a place on the list of what I like to call “Extraordinary Ordinary Things.”

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Flashlight (Torch)— Extraordinary Ordinary Things

Since the dawn of time, or perhaps more appropriately, since the night of time as they say in French (la nuit du temps), mankind has needed something to light their way in the dark to see where they are going. Most often it was a treated as a burning stick, generally called a “torch.” The burning torch filled the bill until very late in the 19th century, just over 130 years ago, with the invention of a reliable, easily portable electric light.

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KITE—Extraordinary Ordinary Things

Ben Franklin was not the first example of a kite being used for a scientific experiment, nor was it the last. Few people know that kites today are still very much being used to explore and understand our world. If you do already know this, that’s what makes you a nerd.

The subtle humor of Charles Schulz’s beloved “Peanuts” comic strip (which débuted in 1947) is somewhat of an acquired taste. When they first come across it, many people see little or nothing to it. However, the more they are exposed to the comic, the more they appreciate its delicate profundity. That’s what makes them intellectuals.

Most likely, dear reader, you fall into both categories, which together make you a very well rounded person.

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The Whistle—Extraordinary Ordinary Things

Some of the most famous lines in cinema history were uttered by Lauren Bacall to Humphry Bogart in the 1944 Film “To Have and To Have Not.” The scene has Bogart’s character Harry “Steve” Morgan, a fishing captain in Nazi-occupied France refusing to smuggle members of the resistance on to his boat. Bacall, playing Marie “Slim” Browning, flirtatiously tries to change his mind. Just before exiting the scene, she passionately kisses him and says, “You don’t have to act with me, Steve. You don’t have to say anything and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together, and blow.”

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