Volume 31
A Fun Site created by
Professor William Hillman culled from a daily motivational series
compiled for his BU Education Classes 2000-2009
The daily tech news items have been omitted since many of the stories are now "old news."


An eclectic collection of oddities, humorous anecdotes, weird photos, funny headlines, cartoons, puzzles, inspirational items, jokes, and more. . .  gathered here as a reference repository for speakers, lecturers, teachers, students, writers, or Web travellers just looking for diversion and a bit of levity. 


With e-mail, professors are always on call
Students 'all have e-mail and they are not at all hesitant to use it'
National Post ~ Siri Agrell 

As most university-aged Canadians enjoyed a mid-winter break from their studies this week, many of their professors were dealing with a new kind of Reading Week, wading through in-boxes flooded with more e-mails each day.

"They all have e-mail and they are not at all hesitant to use it," said a professor who teaches first-year politics at Queen's University in Kingston.

"I don't think a first-year student has ever bothered to come and see me, but some bright idea occurs to them and -- bam! -- off goes the e-mail."

Answering student e-mails has become a standard element of higher education, eradicating the concept of office hours and changing the way young people communicate with their teachers.

And with most universities opting to offer wireless capabilities even inside the classroom, students can now e-mail questions, comments and cop-outs at any time, from anywhere.

The New York Times chronicled the problem in an article about American schools earlier this week, describing professors who are asked everything from what type of binder to bring to class to their opinions on prematurely submitted term papers.

Author Jonathan Glater was told by several American college professors that the e-mail reflected a lack of deference within the halls of academia, a conclusion with which many of his subjects' Canadian colleagues agree.

"Twenty-five years ago, if you were communicating with an instructor you would say Dear Professor X," said the Queen's professor, who did not want to be named for fear of receiving even more e-mails. "With e-mail I'll get things like 'hey' or 'hi.' "

He also receives a number of "incredibly rude e-mails" that he responds to against his better judgment.

"I will always respond like the student wasn't rude, which is dumb because all it does is encourage them," he said. "Whereas what I'd really like to say is, 'You little s---, bugger off.' "

How Canadian university professors respond to their e-mail is usually left up to them. Some begin their inaugural lectures by informing students they only check their e-mail once a day, others do not even provide an e-mail address to students.

Teaching assistants are now often paid for extra hours spent slogging through electronic questions and one university in the Maritimes reportedly tried to amend the faculty's collective agreement to include a time frame for answering student e-mail, an idea that was rejected.

Markus Giesler, a marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University, received about 15 e-mails from students yesterday and said the number can reach as high as 50 during exam season.

He gives himself a standard one-hour window to reply to their queries.

Cynthia Fekken, a Queen's professor and an associate dean in the psychology department, said, "It's not too bad if the student asks a concrete question, the problem is when they say, 'I don't understand anything that's gone on in first year biology. Can you help me?' "

© National Post 

Fun Sites:
What Animal Will You Come Back As?
How Fast Are Your Reactions?
Ugliest Dog


The intuitive interface of the Internet makes it easy for a computer user to copy and use images, text, video and other graphics. But is it legal to do so?

The copyright protections that we normally associate with print also govern the use of audio, video, images, and text on the World Wide Web. A document may be copyrighted even if it does not explicitly state that it is copyrighted. It’s best to assume documents, images, or video clips are copyrighted. And if you see a note containing acceptable use of that work, follow the expressed requirements. If you are ever in doubt, request permission from the copyright owner.

Why Computers Sometimes Crash!
 by Dr. Seuss
(Read this to yourself aloud!)

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
and the bus is interrupted at a very last resort,
and the access of the memory makes your floppy disk abort,
then the socket packet pocket has an error to report.

If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash,
and the double-clicking  icon puts your window in the trash,
and your data is corrupted cause the index doesn't hash,
then your situation's hopeless and your system's gonna crash!

If the label on the cable on the table at your house,
says the network is connected to the button on your mouse,
but your packets want to tunnel to another protocol,
that's repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall......

And your screen is all distorted by the side effects of gauss,
so your icons in the window are as wavy as a souse;
then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang,
'cuz sure as I'm a poet, the sucker's gonna hang.

When the copy on your floppy's getting sloppy in the disk,
and the macro code instructions is causing unnecessary risk,
then you'll have to flash the memory and you'll want to RAM your ROM,
and then quickly turn off the computer and be sure to tell your Mom!

Well, that certainly clears things up for me.  How about you?

Thank you, Bill Gates, for bringing all this into our lives.

How Specifications Live Forever

When you see a space shuttle sitting on the launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are the solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Morton Thiokol at a factory in Utah.

Originally, the engineers who designed the SRBs wanted to make them much fatter than they are. Unfortunately, the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site in Florida and the railroad line runs through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to be made to fit through that tunnel.

Now, the width of that tunnel is just a little wider than the U.S. Standard Railroad Gauge (distance between the rails) of 4 feet, 8.5 inches.

That's an exceedingly odd number. Did you ever wonder why that gauge was used? Because US railroads were designed and built by English expatriates, and that's the way they built them in England.

Okay, then why did the English engineers build them like that? Because the first rail lines of the 19th century were built by the same craftsmen who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

I'll bite, why did those craftsmen choose that gauge? Because they used the same jigs and tools that were previously used for building wagons, and you guessed it, the wagons used that wheel spacing.

Now I feel like a fish on a hook! Why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing?

Well, if the wagon makers and wheelwrights of the time tried to use any other spacing, the wheel ruts on some of the old, long distance roads would break the wagon axles. As a result, the wheel spacing of the wagons had to
match the spacing of the wheel ruts worn into those ancient European roads.

So who built those ancient roads? The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts?

The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots. And since the chariots were made by Imperial Roman chariot makers, they were all alike in the
matter of wheel spacing.

Well, here we are. We now have the answer to the original question. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot.

Specs and bureaucracies live forever.

That's nice to know, but it still doesn't answer why the Imperial Roman war chariot designers chose to spec the chariot's wheel spacing at exactly 4 feet, 8.5 inches.

Are you ready?

Because that was the width needed to accommodate the rear ends of two Imperial Roman war horses!!!

Well, now you have it. The railroad tunnel through which the late 20th century space shuttle SRBs must pass was excavated slightly wider than two 1st century horses' butts.

Consequently, a major design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was spec'd by the width of a horse's behind!

So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horses' rear end came up with it, you may be exactly right.

Now you know what is "behind" it all.


1. Name the Beatles.

2. Finish the line: "Lions and Tigers and Bears, ____ ____ !"

3. "Hey kids, what time is it?"
_____ _____ _____ _____.

4. What do M&M's do?
____ ____ ____ ____, ____ ____ ____ ____

5. What helps build strong bodies 12 ways? _____ _____.

6. Long before he was Mohammed Ali, we knew him as _____ _____.

7. You'll wonder where the yellow went, ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ___.

8. Post-baby boomers know Bob Denver as the Skipper's "little buddy."
But we know that Bob Denver is actually Dobie's closest friend,

9. M-I-C: See ya' real soon; K-E-Y: _____? ____ _____ _____ _____!

10. "Brylcream: ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____."

11. Bob Dylan advised us never to trust anyone _____ _____.

12. From the early days of our music, real rock 'n roll, finish this line:
"I wonder, wonder, wonder...wonder who; ____ ______ _____ _____ _____ ____?

13. And while we're remembering rock n' roll, try this one: "War...uh-huh,huh...yea; what is it good for?
, ____ _____."

14. Meanwhile, back home in Metropolis, Superman fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice,
and _____ ____ _____.

15. He came out of the University of Alabama, and became one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. He later went on to appear in a television commercial wearing women's stockings. He is Broadway
_____ ______.

16. "I'm Popeye the sailor man; I'm Popeye the sailor man. I'm strong to
the finish, ____ ____ ____ ___ ____. I'm Popeye the sailor man."

17. Your children probably recall that Peter Pan was recently played by Robin Williams, but we will always remember when Peter was played by______ ______.

18. In a movie from the late sixties, Paul Newman played Luke, a ne'er do well who was sent to a prison camp for cutting off the heads of parking meters with a pipe cutter. When he was captured after an unsuccessful attempt to escape, the camp commander (played by Strother Martin) used this experience as a lesson for the other prisoners, and explained,
"What we have here, ____ ____ ____ ____ ___."

19. In 1962, a dejected politician chastised the press after losing a race for governor while announcing his retirement from politics."Just think, you won't have ____ ____ to kick around anymore."

20. "Every morning, at the mine, you could see him arrive; He stood six foot, six, weighed 245. Kinda' broad at the shoulder, and narrow at the hip. And everybody knew you didn't give no lip,
____ ____,____ ____ ____."

21. "I found my thrill, ____ ____ ____."

22. ____ ____ said, "Good night, Mrs. Calabash, ____ ____ ____."

23. "Good night, David."
"____ ____,____."

24. "Liar, liar, ____ ____ ____."

25. "When it's least expected, you're elected. You're the star today.
____! ____ ____ ____ ____."

26. It was Pogo, the comic strip character, who said, "We have met the enemy,
and ____ ____ ____."

ANSWERS: Click and drag over the white space below to see the answers highlighted.
1. John, Paul, George, Ringo
2. Oh, my
3. It's Howdy Doody Time!
4. They melt in your mouth, not in your hand.
5. Wonder Bread
6. Cassius Clay
7. when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent
8. Maynard G. Krebbs
9. Why? Because we like you.
10. A little dab'll do ya.
11. over 30
12. who wrote the book of love
13. Absolutely nothin'
14. the American way
15. Joe Namath
16. "cause I eats me spinach"
17. Mary Martin
18. is a failure to communicate
19. Richard Nixon
20. Big John, Big Bad John
21. On Blueberry Hill
22. Jimmy Durante - Wherever you are.
23. Good night, Chet.
24. pants on fire
25. Smile you're on Candid Camera
26. he is us

24-26 correct - You're probably 50+ years old
20-23 correct - Most likely in your 40's
15-19 correct - Are we in our 30's?
10-14 correct - Must be in your 20's!!
1- 9 correct - You're, like, sorta a teenage dude?

How Is Your Aging Intelligence
Take the following test presented here and determine if you are losing it or are still "with it." The spaces are so you don't see the answers until you have made your own....

OK, relax, clear your mind and.... begin. Highlight the white space below each question to see the answer

1. What do you put in a toaster?

The answer is "bread." If you said "toast," then give up now and go do something else. Try not to hurt yourself. If you said, "Bread," go to Question 2.

2. Say "silk" five times. Now spell "silk." What do cows drink?

Answer: Cows drink water. If you said "milk," please do not attempt the next question. Your brain is obviously over stressed and may even overheat. It may be that you need to content yourself with reading some thing more appropriate such as "Children's World." If you said, "Water" then proceed to Question 3.

3. If a red house is made from red bricks and a blue house is made from blue bricks and a pink house is made from pink bricks and a black house is made from black bricks, what is a greenhouse made from?

Answer: Greenhouses are made from glass. If you said "green bricks," what the devil are you still doing here reading these questions?? If you said "glass," then go on to Question 4.

4. If the hour hand on a clock moves 1/60 of a degree every minute then how many degrees will the hour hand move in one hour?

Answer: One degree. If you said "360 degrees" or anything other than "one degree," you are to be congratulated on getting this far, but you are obviously out of your league. Turn your pencil in and exit the room. Everyone else proceed to the final question.

5. Without using a calculator -- You are driving a bus from London to Milford Haven in Wales. In London, 17 people get on the bus. InReading, six people get off the bus and nine people get on. InSwindon, two people get off and four get on. InCardiff, 11 people get off and 16 people get on. InSwansea, three people get off and five people get on. In Carmathen, six people get off and three get on. You then arrive at MilfordHaven. What was the name of the bus driver?

Answer: Oh, for crying out loud! Don't you remember? It was YOU!

Southern Born & Bred
 AND REMEMBER: If you do settle in the South and bear children, don't think we will accept them as Southerners. After all, if the cat had kittens in the oven, we wouldn't call 'em biscuits.

Great taglines...


In 1923, who was:
1. President of the largest steel company?
2. President of the largest gas company?
 3. President of the New York Stock Exchange?
 4. Greatest wheat speculator?
5. President of the Bank of International Settlement?
6. Great Bear of Wall Street?

These men were considered some of the world's most successful of their day.
Now, 80 years later, the history book asks us, if we know what ultimately became of them.
 The answers:
1. The president of the largest steel company, Charles Schwab, died a pauper.
2. The president of the largest gas company, Edward Hopson, went insane.
3. The president of the NYSE, Richard Whitney, was released from prison to die at home.
4. The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cooger, died abroad, penniless.
5. The president of the Bank of International Settlement, shot himself.
6. The Great Bear of Wall Street, Cosabee Livermore, also committed suicide.

 However, in that same year, 1923, the PGA Champion and the winner of the most important golf tournament, the US Open, was Gene Sarazen.
What became of him?
He played golf until he was 92, died in 1999 at the age of 95.  He was financially secure at the time of his death.

The moral:

Screw work. Play golf.


This week, our phones went dead and I had to contact the telephone repair people. They promised to be out between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00p.m. When I asked if they could give me a smaller time window, the pleasant gentleman asked, "Would you like us to call you before we come?" I replied that I didn't see how he would be able to do that since our phones weren't working. He also requested that we report future outages by email.  (Does YOUR dial-up email work without a telephone line?).

I was signing the receipt for my credit card purchase when the clerk noticed I had never signed my name on the back of the credit card. She informed me that she could not complete the transaction unless the card was signed. When I asked why, she explained that it was necessary to compare the signature I had just signed on the receipt. So I signed the credit card in front of her. She carefully compared the signature to the one I had just signed on the receipt. As luck would have it, they matched.

I live in a semi-rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the
Deer Crossing sign on our road. The reason: too many deer were being hit by cars and she didn't want them to cross there anymore.

My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for "minimal lettuce." He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg.

I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?"  To which I replied, 'If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?" She smiled knowingly and nodded, "That's why we ask."

The stoplight on the corner buzzes when it's safe to cross the street.   I was crossing with a coworker of mine when she asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, "What on earth are blind people doing driving?"

At a good-bye luncheon for an old and dear coworker who is leaving the company due to "downsizing," our manager commented
cheerfully, "This is fun. We should do this more often." Not a word was spoken. We all just looked at each other with that deer-in-the-headlights stare.

I work with an individual who plugged her power strip back into itself and for the life of her couldn't understand why her system would not turn on.

When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the driver's side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. "Hey," I announced to the technician, "it's open!" To which he replied, "I know - I already got that side."

Now don't you feel better about yourself...?

Pronunciation: /KAT-er-kor-ner/
adv : in a diagonal or ablique position

Visitors immediately noticed the new bank because it stood catercorner to the town's main intersection, jutting away from the neighboring buildings at an unusual angle.

The Story Behind the "Photos"

You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. ~ Robin Williams

Christmas is celebrated in many countries around the world, with variations in customs and traditions like these:

• In Britain, eating mince pies at Christmas dates back to the 16th century. It is still believed that to eat a mince pie on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas will bring 12 happy months in the year to follow.

• In Norway on Christmas Eve, visitors should know that after the family's big dinner and the opening of presents, all the brooms in the house are hidden. The Norwegians long ago believed that witches and mischievous spirits came out on Christmas Eve and would steal their brooms for riding.

• In the Ukraine, an artificial spider and web are often included in the decorations on Ukrainian Christmas trees. It is believed to be a harbinger of good luck! A Ukrainian folk tale tells of a woman so poor, that she could not afford Christmas decorations. Yet on Christmas morning, she awoke to find that spiders had trimmed the tree with their webs which turned to silver and gold.

• At Christmas, it is traditional to exchange kisses beneath the mistletoe tree. In ancient Scandinavia, mistletoe was associated with peace and friendship. That may account for the custom of "kissing beneath the mistletoe".

• The "Urn of Fate" is part of the Christmas celebrations in many Italian households. The Urn of Fate is brought out on Christmas Eve. It holds a wrapped present for everyone. The mother tries her luck first, then the others in turn. If you get a present with your name on it, you keep it; otherwise, you put it back and try again.

• In Greek legend, malicious creatures called Kallikantzaroi sometimes play troublesome pranks at Christmas time. In order to get rid of them, salt or an old shoe is burnt. The pungent smoky stench drives off the beasts.

• The poinsettia is a traditional Christmas flower. In Mexico, its original birthplace, the poinsettia is known as the "Flower of the Holy Night".

• In Sweden, a common Christmas decoration is the Julbukk, a small figurine of a goat. It is usually made of straw. Scandinavian Christmas festivities feature a variety of straw decorations in the form of stars, angels, hearts and other shapes, as well as the Julbukk.

• In Syria, Christmas gifts are distributed by one of the Wise Men's camels. The gift-giving camel is said to have been the smallest one in the Wise Men's caravan.

• It is a British Christmas tradition that a wish made while mixing the Christmas pudding will come true only if the ingredients are stirred in a clockwise direction.

The Hillman Christmas Nostalgia Pages

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