Tuesday, February 22, 2011

De Viribis Quantitatis

Interesting news for magic and performing buffs: Reginald Scott's 1587 book The Discoverie of Witchcraft (widely regarded as the first book on magic) has been bumped from spot #1 by De Viribis Quantitatis - a text written by Leonardo Da Vinci's best friend, Luca Pacioli.

Here's some blurb from mathforum.org:

"Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan monk, mathematics tutor, and colleague of Leonardo Da Vinci, wrote this foundational text of modern magic and numerical puzzles between 1496 and 1508. De Viribus Quantitatis (On the Powers of Numbers) contains the first ever reference to card tricks and some of the earliest recorded European examples of numerical puzzles; guidance on how to juggle, eat fire and make coins dance; and insights into Da Vinci's life and work. Often called the father of modern accountancy, Pacioli also authored the first published description of double-entry bookkeeping, accountancy's basic technique. "

Apparently it's now been translated into English for the first time in 500 years and will be published later this year. Very cool. I'd love to see his advice to fire-eaters. What would they have used for fuel?!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

...still don't know any card games.

I needed a break from the computer and thought I would do my long-suffering wife a wee favour by tidying up the randomly-discarded and thoughtlessly-placed decks of cards that seem to litter every flat surface I pass by.

I then dug out all the bricks of new playing cards that I have bought but not yet used.

It made a big pile.

I emptied out jacket pockets, checked the glove compartment in the car (and the doorwells...and the trunk), unzipped the tops of our backpacks, dug around in my lunch-bag...in the bedside table...beside the tv, on the coffee tables (two of them) and gradually cleansed our living space of pasteboards.

A few years back I remember laughing when I read a message posted on a magicians' bulletin board online that said:
"You know you may be a magician when...you own more than 20 decks of cards but still can't play any card games."

Hmmmmm. I counted up the old decks - ones thinner than 52 after having spectators sign and keep souvenirs, or ones that are simply dead, too soft or no longer fan-able, damaged from shuffling and so on. I wasn't too surprised to find just over a hundred of them around the house.

The issue is what do you do with them once they're past the useful stage? They're no good for giving away to card players as they're all undoubtedly mis-matched decks. They may have 52 in the box but I'd be surprised if any one of them was actually a full deck. While I'm working, if I give away a signed card (which I do...a lot) I replace it with a random card from a spare deck in my back pocket so that I can work all night and still have more than a pathetic half-dozen cards left in my hand by the end.

I could practice all those moves that require ruining cards: card folds, torn-and-restored card routines and so on. And sometimes I do. I recently even started making origami card-frogs for people but frankly there's a limit to how many of those you can do in a night before your client starts to wonder why they booked you to do magic if all you're going to do is make hoppy-toys instead.

So they pile up. Two decks in a night, maybe three over a weekend, and before you know it you're swimming in the things.

What surprised me wasn't so much the fact that I had over a hundred old dead decks, but rather the fact that I seem to have nearly as many brand new decks. How does this happen?

The answer is Costco.

Great deal on Bicycle decks, granted, but the issue is the same that haunts people who shop for food while they're hungry. I go to Costco for cereal but always end up in the books aisle and, well, I can't remember how many new decks I still have at home so I buy another couple of bricks of the things.

I'm taking after my dad. When I was younger he had a habit of going out for groceries and coming home with lightbulbs, hummous and Quaker Harvest Crunch. Every time. And this was regardless of the fact that his larder was quite neatly subdivided into three sections: one for lightbulbs, one for packets of hummous, and one for Quaker Harvest Crunch.

And the rabbit photo below? No reason.
'Cos who needs one?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Stress meanz luv

To follow up on the last post,... we did the bathtub treatment a couple of times with Augustus and Snowdon over the past few days, and following one episode decided to let them play together for a few minutes afterwards since they seemed to be getting on fine.


Augustus chased Snowdon within moments. No biting this time, I'm glad to say, but chase chase chase.

Ok, so it's going to be more gradual than we'd hoped.

Tonight we decided to try a different approach: The Washing Machine Treatment.

Two boys, one cardboard box and a washing machine set on spin cycle. Oh boy, they didn't like that. Snowdon hunkered down and Augustus (true to form) kept trying to jump out of the box. Nothing that a bath towel over the top didn't fix, though.

Five minutes of that, and then we let them play together...on the bathroom floor. They've never done that before so we thought it would be neutral territory. And so it was! I knelt on the floor with them and within seconds they did something they've never done before: both of them hopped up onto my lap! Perhaps I'm making some progress with them as well. Until now it's been a challenge even to get them to let me touch them without running away, but it seems the Big Bunny was the safest place to be for two little ones who didn't recognise where they were. So they sat on my lap, burrowed under my arms and climbed up towards my shoulders for ten minutes.

I'm hopeful that this means we're moving in the right direction (both me + boys and Augustus + Snowdon), but it's early days yet.

Wish me luck.