Friday, March 02, 2007
Thursday, March 01, 2007
The sound you can hear by clicking on the control above is a recreation of part of one of the Titanic's distress calls sent by Marconi operator Jack Phillips (left) aboard RMS Titanic just after midnight on Monday, April 15, 1912.
As best as my rudimentary Morse code skills allow, the message translates as follows:
CQD CQD SOS SOS CQD DE MGY MGY MGY
"CQD" was the standard distress call at the time; there were a whole series of "CQ" codes, and the "D" meant distress. In 1909, an international convention adopted "SOS" as the new distress signal-- not because it means "save our souls," as is often reported, but because the three dots, three dashes and three dots are a very distinctive signal that cannot be confused with anything else, especially by those not very familiar with Morse. (Even you can hear it, right?) "MGY" were Titanic's call letters. And the "DE" means "from."
Imagine sitting in some radio shack on one of the many ships in the North Atlantic that cold, still night, listening to the staccato mutter of the Morse spark, and suddenly hearing this call out of the ether. Anyone who heard the call that night remembered to his dying day the hair rising on the back of his neck at the almost incomprehensible message -- the Titanic in distress.
Let A be the subject of the argument.
Husband knows A=true. A has been true all of his life. It is commonly known by all sentient beings that A=true. It is one of the bedrock strictures of his life.
In a conversation with Wife, Wife mentions that A=false. Husband questions this. No, she says. A is false, has always been false, and only a complete idiot (like Husband) would think otherwise.
OK, thinks Husband. She is the light of my life and I must support her. Let A be false forever.
Soon afterwards, Husband comes across a situation where he must act on A. His first instinct, nurtured by years of life experiences, is to assume A=true. But wait, he thinks. Wife said A is false. I don't want to get in trouble with Wife, so I will act as if A is false. He proceeds to do so, and feels good about it.
A while later, Wife comes along and observes that Husband has acted as if A=false. Husband proudly beams as he awaits his well-deserved praise.
Wife flies off the handle. How could you possibly think A is false?, she hisses in her best third-grade teacher sneer. Any idiot knows A is true.
But you said A is false, Husband replies.
I never, ever said that, says Wife.
Yes, you did, answers Husband, as the room begins to spin. You stood right there and told me A is false.
Not only did I never, ever say A is false, Wife opines, but I've never stood right there, either.
Husband rubs his temples and heads off, mentally, to a happy place (like his old bachelor apartment) and hunkers down for the obligatory 45-minute oratory on his failures as a husband, a human being and a carbon-based life form.