Saturday, June 12, 2021



American writer Mark Twain was once travelling by train to Dijon in France. That afternoon he was very tired and wanted to sleep. He therefore asked the conductor to wake him up when they came to Dijon and explained that he was a very heavy sleeper. “I’ll probably protest loudly when you try to wake me up,” he said to the conductor. “But do not take any notice, just put me off the train anyway.”

When Twain woke up, the train was already in Paris. The angry writer ran up to the conductor and said, “I’ve never been so angry in all my life.”

The conductor looked at him calmly. “You are not half so angry as the American whom I put off the train at Dijon,” he said.

Thomas Gainsborough, one of England’s most famous 18th century painters, discovered his talent in an unusual way. As a boy he lived in the country and once, while walking near his father’s house, he saw a thief climb over the wall of neighbour’s garden. He had a look at the man, went back home and was able to draw a good likeness of the thief. When Tom’s father heard the story and saw the picture, he took it to the police at once. It was such a good likeness that quite soon the thief was caught and punished.

Message from the Duke of Wellington to the British Foreign Office in London –
written from Central Spain, August 1812


Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by H.M.ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters.

We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.

Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion’s petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.

This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:

1.  To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London or perchance.

2.   To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.

Your most obedient servant,


Sam Houston driving a yoke of oxen and a cart met a heavy man in a buggy driving a team of black horses.

"I am Sam Houston, Governor of the State of Texas, and I order you to turn out of the road for me."

"I am an American citizen and a taxpayer of Texas, and I have as much right to the road as you."

"That is an intelligent answer and I salute you and I will turn out of the road for you."

From Stephen Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time, an item which has been posted previously in Bytes:

A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!”

(The idea of the world turtle with turtles all the way down, the world elephant etc has been around since the 17th and 18th centuries. See:

Hideki Tōjō (1884 – 1948) was a Japanese politician and general of the Imperial Japanese Army who served as Prime Minister of Japan and President of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association for most of World War II. During his years in power, he assumed several more positions including Chief of Staff of the Imperial Army before ultimately being removed from office in July 1944.

After Japan's unconditional surrender in 1945, U.S. general Douglas MacArthur ordered the arrest of forty individuals suspected of war crimes, including Tojo. Five American GIs were sent to serve the arrest warrant. As American soldiers surrounded Tojo's house on September 11, he shot himself in the chest with a pistol, but missed his heart. As a result of this experience, the Army had medical personnel present during the later arrests of other accused Japanese war criminals.

As he bled, Tojo began to talk, and two Japanese reporters recorded his words: "I am very sorry it is taking me so long to die. The Greater East Asia War was justified and righteous. I am very sorry for the nation and all the races of the Greater Asiatic powers. I wait for the righteous judgment of history. I wished to commit suicide but sometimes that fails."

After recovering from his injuries, Tojo received a new set of dentures, made by an American dentist, into which the phrase "Remember Pearl Harbor" had been secretly drilled in Morse code. The dentist ground away the message three months later.

Tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East for war crimes and found guilty, he was executed by hanging on December 23, 1948.

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