David Bruce: Boredom is Anti-Life — Problem-Solving

Problem-Solving

• Making maps in ancient times was very difficult. To measure the distances between two points, map makers hired professional walkers — people who had been trained to take steps of the same distance, instead of mixing up long and short steps. The professional walkers would walk the distance between two points, then report to the map maker how many steps they had taken. The ancient Greek mathematician and scientist Eratosthenes hired a professional walker to measure the distance between Alexandria and Syene, then he used the measurement to calculate the circumference of the Earth. He came up with the figure of 29,000 miles, which is close to the actual figure of approximately 24,900 miles.

• The movie Field of Dreams starred Kevin Costner as a man who builds a baseball field in his cornfield. Of course, the movie had to be carefully planned so that the corn would be the right height when the time for filming the scenes in the cornfield came. The corn was planted, and the director filmed the indoor scenes first to allow time for the corn to grow. Unfortunately, because of a drought it seemed that the corn would not grow after all. However, the creators of the film dammed a creek and irrigated the field, and they even paid $25,000 to truck in water. This was so successful that Mr. Costner sometimes had to walk on hidden platforms in the cornfield because the corn was so high.

• Girls at a middle school started to wear lipstick. Unfortunately, this caused a problem. They would put the lipstick on in the girls’ restroom and then kiss the mirror, leaving behind lipstick on the mirror. The principal decided to get the girls to stop doing that. She called all the girls into the bathroom and explained, “The lipstick on the mirror is very difficult for the janitor to get off.” The principal then asked the janitor, “Will you please show the girls how difficult it is for you to get the lipstick off the mirror?” The janitor dipped a toilet brush into the water in a toilet and then used the brush to scrub the mirror. The girls stopped kissing the mirror.

• While on tour with the Mapleson Opera Company, Etelka Gerster became stubborn after her sleeping car broke down, and the train stopped so that the broken car could be put on a side rail. Against all reason, Ms. Gerster absolutely refused to leave the sleeping car. Fortunately, Colonel James H. Mapleson solved the problem by convincing a very handsome station agent to play the role of the president of the railroad. The station agent flattered the stubborn coloratura, then convinced her to travel in another sleeping car that he said had been prepared especially for her.

• When writers Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur ran a movie studio that produced their own scripts in the 1930s, they hired a stage actor named Claude Rains to appear before a movie camera for the first time in their movie Crime Without Passion. Because he had a problem with his feet swelling under the hot movie lights, Mr. Rains performed many of his love scenes while standing barefoot in a pan of cool water — the movie camera, of course, was kept focused above his waist.

• Edwin Booth and Tommaso Salvini appeared together in Othello over a century ago. Mr. Booth appeared as Iago, and Ms. Salvini appeared as Othello. Mr. Booth performed well in the early acts, but he became ill and could barely stand when Othello assaulted him. He nearly fell into the orchestra pit, but Mr. Salvini used his immense strength to hold him up and continued to perform the scene as if Mr. Booth were not ill.

• As a computer pioneer, Grace Hopper thought in original ways. Frequently, after she was told that a problem could not be solved, she went ahead and tried to solve it anyway. She explained, “It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.” She also owned a clock that ran counter-clockwise simply to show people that things can be done in more than the usual way.

• Lord Berkeley often boasted that he would never be robbed by a lone highwayman. One night, he was accosted by a lone highwayman, so Lord Berkeley, thinking quickly, said, “You cowardly dog, do you think that I can’t see your confederate skulking behind you?” The highwayman turned around to look — and Lord Berkeley shot him.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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