For Reasons That Seem Good to Me

I recommend this story to all.

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The Coldest Equations Yet

The Coldest Equations Yet
James D. Macdonald

Astounding Science Fiction August 1954Stardate 31-20.6.

Half-way through the first dog watch on the cruiser Stardust, bound for Mimir, the light on the communications panel that showed an open sub-space carrier wave blossomed. Communications Tech First Class Sylvia Harlin flipped the ‘respond’ switch and leaned closer to the mike: “Stardust. Identify yourself and proceed.”

The IFF on the annunciator below the mike read EDS 3. Harlin looked at the clipboard with Emergency Dispatch Ship pilot assignments. The name penciled in beside EDS3 was Barton, Samuel J. She knew him, a stuck-up prick who slept in pilots’ berthing, ate in the pilots’ mess, and thought he was better than anyone because he was detachment while they were crew.

Barton had left on EDS3 just about an hour before, carrying a load of kala fever serum for Woden. A moment later, voice-comms confirmed the ID. “Barton, EDS 34GII. Emergency. Give me Commander Delhart.”

CT1 Harlin pressed the button to summon the CO into the comm spaces. Whatever Barton had, she thought, it had better be good. Commander Winston Delhart was at supper and he did not take kindly to interruptions.  She straightened the collar of her uniform jacket. No sense giving the commander something to yell at her about; he was certain to yell at someone.

A moment later the man himself strode in, glaring at the watch officer, the flight controller, and, most of all, her at the comm desk with the open circuit light and the live mike. She pointed to the mike and said, “Commander, the EDS requests—”

“Barton?” the commander interrupted her. “What’s this about an emergency?” His voice was half-way between a growl and shout.

The subspace wave hummed; the answer only slightly distorted. “A stowaway.”

“A stowaway?” Harlin could see the color rising in Commander Delhart’s face. Some junior officer, somewhere on board, didn’t know it yet but was going to have a bad night. Delhart had a way of working off his temper on his subordinates. “That’s rather unusual—but why the ‘emergency’ call? You discovered him in time, so there should be no appreciable danger, and I presume you’ve informed Ship’s Records so his nearest relatives can be notified.”

Barton had a stick up his ass, everyone on board knew it, and no imagination.  But Harlin could tell that the EDS pilot was stressed. “That’s why I had to call you, first. The stowaway is still aboard and the circumstances are so different—”

“Different?” the commander all but roared. “How can they be different? You know you have a limited supply of fuel; you also know the law as well as I do: ‘Any stowaway discovered in an EDS shall be jettisoned immediately following discovery.’”

“The stowaway is a girl,” came the crackly voice over the speaker.

“What?” Delhart glared at Harlin as if the concept of ‘female’ was her idea.

“She wanted to see her brother. She’s only a kid and she didn’t know what she was really doing.”

The comm watch officer leaned closer to the commander and whispered, “I’m logging this.”

“I see,” Delhart replied, suddenly deflated.

He turned back to the mike connecting control to the EDS. “So you called me in the hope I could do something?” He looked directly at the comm officer with an expression that said he knew he was speaking not to Barton on the little EDS, but to his own eventual Board of Inquiry. “I’m sorry—I can do nothing. This cruiser must maintain its schedule; the life of not one person but the lives of many depend on it. I know how you feel but I’m powerless to help you. You’ll have to go through with it. I’ll have you connected with Ship’s Records.”

Harlin turned the switch patching the EDS to Records, and closed out the comm log on the transmission: time, date, duration, frequency, and signal strength. Delhart looked pointedly at the chronometer on the bulkhead, then took a seat in the command chair. The messenger of the watch brought a cup of coffee. Delhart drank it as if it were a personal enemy. Minutes passed. A half hour. Another look at the chronometer. The commander picked up the internal comm link and turned the dial to Records.

“What’s the status on Barton’s report?” he snapped at the answering voice. A moment of indistinct mumbling from the handset, then, “What do you mean ‘it’s not ready’?”

Delhart pointed at CT1 Harlin and said, “Patch me through to EDS 3.” Harlin set the switches, the light flashed to Carrier Open, and she nodded to the commander.

“Barton.” Commander Delhart’s voice was forceful. Any louder and he wouldn’t need a radio, Harlin thought. “A check with Records shows me you haven’t completed your report.” A pause while the commander looked at the remote readouts showing the EDS’s course and speed, then, “Did you reduce the deceleration?”

Poor son of a bitch isn’t going to have an ass after Delhart gets done chewing it, Harlin thought, feeling sympathy for Barton for the first time on this transit.

“I’m decelerating at point ten,” Barton answered, sounding defensive. “I cut the deceleration at seventeen fifty and the weight is a hundred and ten. I would like to stay at point ten as long as the computers say I can. Will you give them the question?”

Commander Delhart looked like he was being asked to swallow a live toad, but he answered simply enough, “I’ll have that given to the computers.” He pointed to the duty astrogator.  “I’ll have the course correction given to you. Ordinarily I would never permit anything like this, but I understand your position. There is nothing I can do, other than what I’ve just done, and you will not deviate from these new instructions. You will complete your report at nineteen ten. Now—here are the course corrections.”

The commander stopped talking while the duty astrogator read the new courses, speeds, burn times and durations. “That’s a five-gee segment there,” the astrogator said after giving the last of the numbers. “Hope you’re up to it.”

“Guess I’ll have to be,” Barton said. “Thanks, good copy.”

Delhart had the last word: “You will resume deceleration at nineteen ten,” and cut the connection.  Harlin looked at the bulkhead chrono; it read eighteen ten. This watch had gone straight to crap, she thought. Delhart didn’t look like he was planning to move from the command chair. That meant that the easy give-and-take of conversation on a routine watch in deep space, the reminiscences of leave on the last planet, the endless stream of parrot jokes, didn’t have a chance. The watch section stood, or sat, at attention at their stations, feeling the commander’s eyes on their backs. No one dared to scratch.

Exactly at nineteen ten Delhart pointed to the comm tech. Harlin opened the carrier to EDS3 and switched it to speaker.

“Barton,” Commander Delhart said. “Why haven’t you finished your report to Ship’s Records? I’m tired of your excuses.”

The voice that came across the subspace radio didn’t sound much like the EDS pilot. “Barton? Oh, I’m sorry. He can’t come to the phone right now.” It was a light, musical voice. A female voice.

“Who is this?” Delhart asked. “It’s a serious offense to use official channels for non-essential transmissions.”

“I’m Marilyn Lee Cross,” the voice answered. “You know, the stowaway. Remember me?”

“Where’s Barton?”

“He decided to walk. I’m sorry, but I didn’t get his identification disk before he left. Ship’s Records will just have to make do.”

“You….” Commander Delhart’s voice sputtered to a stop.

“That’s right. Me. He’s out the airlock. I’m sure his friends will miss him, but, like he told me, the frontier is a dangerous place. He knew the risks.”

Harlin looked around; everyone in the comm space seemed to be frozen in place. Commander Delhart’s face was purple.  “You don’t know what you’ve done,” the commander said.

“Actually, I have a pretty fair idea,” the young woman’s voice replied, suddenly businesslike. “I mass fifty kilos. Barton massed at least a hundred. So we have a fifty-kilo margin of safety. Now this is what’s going to happen:  You’re going to talk me through landing this thing on Woden. Because if you don’t this nice expensive EDS ship, and all that kala fever serum, is going to be spattered over a thousand square kilometers of dirt. You d0n’t want those six men down there, men who never did anything wrong, to die, do you?”

Harlin hadn’t seen the comm officer leave, but she saw him come back.  Lieutenant Commander  Charyl Mullin,  the executive officer, walked one pace ahead of him. The XO strode to Commander Delhart’s side, saluted, and said, “I relieve you, sir.”

Delhart turned to the XO. “What?”

“I said, ‘I relieve you, sir’.”


“That’s right. It’s mutiny. Now will you go to your quarters on your own, sir, or must I have you escorted?” Harlin noted that the XO had the chief master at arms and two large machinist mates alongside.

Harlin turned back to the comm board. “Wait one.”

“Commander,” the master at arms said, “Come along now, sir. It’s over.”

“We have the security camera record of you putting that young lady on the EDS,” the XO said. “Local records only go back three trips, but on each one you picked up some waif just before liftoff, used and abused her in your cabin ’til about half-way, then let EDS dispose of your indiscretion. When we get to Mimir I’m going to request records going back to the day you took command. After my report goes in maybe someone with more horsepower than me will decide to check your entire active duty career. For…anomalies.”

Commander Delhart opened his mouth as if to speak. The master at arms held up his hand. “No, sir, not a word. Anything that you say may be used against you at your court-martial.”

The XO took the seat beside Harlin and swiveled the mike closer. “Miss Cross? This is Lieutenant Commander Mullin. I’m going to talk you down. First, sit in the command seat.”

“I’m there.”

“Great. Now you see the large dial on the control panel, top left,  numbered from minus fifty to plus fifty, with a knob  labeled RSE-TACH below it? Turn that knob until the needle is centered on zero.”

A moment, then, over the subspace, “Got it.”

The XO turned to the duty astrogator. “Keep full real-time eyes on that craft’s trajectory. Any course changes, any burns, I want them in my hand at least eight seconds before I need them.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the astrogator replied.

The XO turned back to the subspace mike. “Great. Now fasten your seat belt. This ride may be a little rough.”


I’ve just re-read “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin and found it as annoying as ever.

First, if their safety margin on fuel load is that narrow, they’re all dead anyway.

Next, I find it very difficult to believe that our hard-as-nails pilot can’t find fifty kilos of material to jettison. How about that closet door? Why’s he need that? Everything in the closet. And that blaster. Doesn’t it have mass? Does he carry potable water? He can live three days without it. Inspection covers. Seats. Whatever piece of gear is supposed to detect stowaways. It’s clearly broken—why not unbolt it and toss it out the airlock?

Assume the ship is pressurized to one atmosphere.  Blow half the air out the airlock and gain 16 kilos.  Blow two-thirds of it out the airlock and gain 24 kilos.  That’s nearly half of what they need. Yeah, that’ll take them to top-of-Everest pressures and everyone will feel lousy, but the cure is returning to full pressure and that’ll happen when they arrive planetside.

The only reason this story works out the way it does is the author’s thumb on the scales. It’s a one-joke story, much like “The Lady Or the Tiger” (another story I find highly annoying, not least because it keeps showing up in school anthologies).

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It’s January, Which Means Arisia Is on the Horizon

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Doyle’s Arisia Sked

Macdonald’s Arisia Sked:

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Where O Where Has My Middle-Earth Gone?

Where is The Lord of the Rings set?  I say it’s the Americas.  Here’s why:

  1.  Pipeweed.  That’s tobacco, sure enough, and that’s a native American species.

    Quit smoking


  2.  Potatoes.  Same deal: the Americas.



  3. The Great River.  Nothing in Europe, and especially nothing in England, can compare with either the Mighty Mississippi or the Amazon.
Mississippi Watershed

The Mississippi River


Conclusion:  The Lord of the Rings, totally in the Americas.

Legolas at Sequoia National Forest

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Cheating at Cards

The Expert at the Card TableHarry HoudiniFrom our very good friends at the Library of Congress, a .pdf facsimile of Harry Houdini’s personal copy of The Expert at the Card Table by S. W. Erdnase. [Erdnase, SW. Artifice Ruse and Subterfuge at the Card Table: A Treatise on the Science and Art of Manipulating Cards. Frederick J. Drake & Co., 1905]  The work is currently in the public domain.

Erdnase himself was a man (or perhaps woman) of mystery.  Exactly who he was has never been proven, despite long research and some very clever hypotheses.   However, he revolutionized card magic.  The modern masters, from Dai Vernon on, based their work on Erdnase.  Anyone who is interested at all in card magic is familiar with Erdnase.  May I recommend Blind shuffles retaining the entire order, fourth method, page 164 (page 168 of the .pdf) for a sample of the wonders within?

While we’re on the subject of card tricks, here is a small collection of easy yet entertaining card tricks which, once well learned, will make you an object of admiration among your friends, and astonishment to total strangers.

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Royal Road

Buy this book new or used from your favorite independent bookstore.

The Royal Road to Card Magic by Jean Hugard and Frederick Braue

So there you are, with that new copy of The Royal Road to Card Magic that you found under the Christmas tree (or that old copy that you found in your stuff and dusted off because you’re finally ready to get serious about learning magic).  Lots of tricks in this book.  Lots of good stuff.  It’s all neatly arranged to teach card magic from first principles, for the absolute beginner.  Everyone recommends this book because … it’s really good.

But what are the best tricks in this book?  What to learn cold, to put into your act?  For that matter, what is an act?

Each trick has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Tricks are the building blocks of routines.

One way to think of  routines is as little stories.  Each with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  So: a routine is three tricks that lead naturally one into the next.   The breaks between tricks in the routine give you time to collect your breath, get back on track if you’ve gotten off, and a place for applause.  You like applause.  I like applause.  Applause is good!

And an act is a set of three routines, each routine forming the beginning, the middle, and the end of the act.  (This should run about thirty minutes.  Which means, naturally,  that if you put together three acts, you have a full evening show.)

An act, thus, is an anthology.  (An anthology, btw, is literally “a bouquet of flowers.” In which, if you get a nice bouquet,  the blooms will be balanced for size, for color, for texture, for scent, and all those flower-shop virtues.)

These are, in my opinion, the best tricks in Hugard & Braue’s Royal Road to Card Magic.  In no particular order:

  • A Poker Puzzle
  • Acrobatic Aces
  • Conus Ace Trick
  • The Changing Card
  • The Good Luck Card
  • The Three Piles
  • Double Reverse
  • Mirror of the Mind
  • Three Cards Across
  • Cards to the Pocket
  • Fours of a Kind
  • Everybody’s Card
  • A Tipsy Trick
  • Righting a Wrong
  • Card in the Pocket
  • Obliging Aces
  • Piano Trick
  • The Sevens
  • The Poker Player’s Picnic
  • Gathering of the Clan
  • Telepathy Plus
  • Ladies’ Looking Glass
  • Now You See It!
  • Topsy-Turvy Cards
  • The 26th Card
  • Thought Stealer
  • Everywhere and Nowhere
  • Ambitious Card
  • Do as I Do
  • Design for Laughter

That’s thirty tricks.  Thirty tricks, learned perfectly, and presented well (in accordance with your style and character), are enough to make a career.  (Some well-known magicians from the Golden Age of Vaudeville performed far fewer.)

Presentation trumps everything. There is no trick so weak that a sufficiently talented performer can’t turn it into a miracle. And there is no trick so strong that a sufficiently poor performer can’t leave an audience glancing at their watches and eyeing the exits.  Don’t use the presentations in the book; they’re too general and, for current tastes, too old-fashioned.  Make up your own presentations based on your own character and style.

For far more on style, and characterization, and entertainment in general, get a copy of Henning Nelms’ Magic and Showmanship, new or used, again from your favorite independent bookstore.

Mandatory writing-related comment:  A novel has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Novels (usually) consist of chapters, each of which has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Each chapter is built up of scenes, again with beginnings, middles, and ends.  And each scene is built from paragraphs, with beginnings, middles, and ends.  (Some say, and I can argue that, the paragraph is the smallest unit of meaning in English.)

So: Tricks  = paragraphs.  Routines = scenes.  Acts = chapters.  Show = novel.  Your typical thirty-minute magic act is the equivalent of a short story.

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Seven More Days

Dr. Doyle's Editorial and Critique Services

In the meantime, have some links to pictures of gingerbread houses and a guide to finding local Christmas light displays and last year’s Festival of Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge, to amuse you during the season.

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Shocking fake PLUS tourists at an unsafe location

The storm strikes New York City

I’m rather happy with this composition.


And hey, fake news!  Who knew that would be a thing?

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I’d Thought I Was Done with Politics

After reprinting the Whig and Republican songbooks from 1844 and 1888 I thought I’d be done with this.  But hey, it’s time to stand up for truth.

Who knew that Teen Vogue would be a bastion of hard-hitting journalism?

The CIA officially determined that Russia intervened in our election, and President-elect Donald Trump dismissed the story as if it were a piece of fake news. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” his transition team wrote in a statement. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again’.”


Of the statements in that release, we have three supposed facts and one opinion.

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,”

Not true: the intelligence community didn’t say that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.  Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld did, and they were lying as they spoke.  I may get more into this later, to provide the proofs.

“The election ended a long time ago…”

Not true. One month and four days isn’t a “long time.”  And, until the Electoral College (designed to be our last bastion against demagogues)  votes, the election still isn’t over.

“…in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history.”

Not true.  Fully two-thirds of Electoral College victories, 1804-present, have been bigger.

Let’s fact-check that.  The presumed result in the Electoral College this time around (if the Electoral College doesn’t do their job) is Trump:Clinton 306:232.  How does that stack up as one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history?

Looking at recent history, 1960-2016 inclusive, there were fifteen elections.  Trump comes in 10 out of 15.  He came in ahead of Kennedy in 1960, Nixon in 1968, Carter in 1976, Bush in 2004, and Bush in 2000.


Year Winner Loser Third Party Candidates Winner’s Per Cent of the Electoral College
2016 306 232 0 Trump/ Clinton 59.8% (presumed)
2012 332 206 0 Obama/ Romney 61.7%
2008 365 173 0 Obama/ McCain 67.8%
2004 286 251 0 Bush/ Kerry 53.3%
2000 271 266 0 Bush/ Gore 50.5%
1996 379 159 0 Clinton/ Dole 70.4%
1992 370 168 0 Clinton/ Bush 68.8%
1988 426 111 0 Bush/ Dukakis 79.3%
1984 525 13 0 Reagan/ Mondale 97.6%
1980 489 49 0 Reagan/ Carter 90.9%
1976 297 270 0 Carter/ Ford 52.4%
1972 520 17 0 Nixon/ McGovern 96.8%
1968 301 191 46 Nixon/ Humphrey/ Wallace 55.9%
1964 486 52 0 Johnson/ Goldwater 90.3%
1960 303 219 15 Kennedy/ Nixon/ Byrd 56.4%

Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959 and the size of the Electoral College changed then.  But if we look at the record from the century since 1912 (when New Mexico and Arizona joined the Union), we find Trump faring even worse.  Whether you look at raw numbers of electoral votes or percent of the Electoral College, he comes in 20th out of 27.  To the five that he beat between 1960 and 2016, Trump only comes in ahead of Truman in 1948 and Wilson in 1916.

Alaska and Hawaii admitted to the Union (1959)

1956 457 73 0 Eisenhower/ Stevenson 86.2%
1952 442 89 0 Eisenhower/ Stevenson 83.2%
1948 303 189 39 Truman/ Dewey/ Thurmond 57.1%
1944 432 99 0 Roosevelt/ Dewey 81.4%
1940 449 82 0 Roosevelt/ Wilkie 84.6%
1936 532 8 0 Roosevelt/ Landon 98.5%
1932 472 59 0 Roosevelt/ Hoover 88.9%
1928 444 87 0 Hoover/ Smith 83.6%
1924 382 116 13 Coolidge/ Davis/ LaFollette 74.8%
1920 404 127 0 Harding/ Cox 76.1%
1916 277 254 0 Wilson/ Hughes 52.2%
1912 425 88 8 Wilson/ Roosevelt/ Taft 81.6%

Arizona and New Mexico admitted to the Union (1912)

20th out of 27.  Our boy Trump is firmly ensconced in the bottom third over the last century.

Between 1804 and 1908 we have another twenty-seven elections.  I’m switching over to the winner’s percentage of the Electoral College here, because the size of the EC kept changing as territories became states and states changed in population.  How’s Trump compare?

Woo! looking only at those 104 years he’s eleventh out of twenty-seven.  He’s rocked his way up to having  only 60% of the Electoral College victories being greater than his.

When we look at  the elections between 1804 and 1908 Trump with his 59.8% only came in ahead of:

Year Candidates Winner’s per cent in the EC
1888 Harrison/ Cleveland 59.6%
1860 Lincoln/ Breckinridge/ Bell/ Douglas 59.4%
1812 Madison/ George Clinton 59.0%
1856 Buchanan/ Fremont/ Fillmore 58.8%
1880 Garfield/ Hancock 58.0%
1836 Van Buren/ Harrison/ White/ Webster/ Mangum 57.8%
1848 Taylor/ Cass 56.2%
1884 Cleveland/ Blaine 54.6%
1876 Hayes/ Tilden 50.1%
1824 Jackson/ Adams/ Crawford/ Clay 37.9%

(Note: The 1824 election had no winner in the Electoral College and went to the House under the 12th Amendment where Adams prevailed.)

From 1789 to 1800 inclusive, the electoral process was entirely different.  The candidate winning the most votes in the Electoral College became president, while the person with the second-most votes became vice-president.  Washington is considered to have been elected unanimously for both of his terms (1789 and 1792).  1796, the first contested election, gave us a president and vice-president from different parties (Adams, a Federalist, and Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican).   The election of 1800, which left Jefferson and Burr tied in the Electoral College (Jefferson became President, Burr his Vice-President) showed that the system was unworkable, leading to the modern ticket/running-mate system.  Those four eighteenth century elections can’t be compared in any meaningful way with elections in the 19th, 20th, or 21st centuries.


CONCLUSION:  When the Republicans call Mr. Trump’s victory “one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history” they are lying.


Why lie about something so trivial, and so easily checked?

Election year Winner Loser Third Party   Candidates  Per Cent
1820 231 1 0 Monroe/ Adams 99.6
1936 532 8 0 Roosevelt/ Landon 98.5
1984 525 13 0 Reagan/ Mondale 97.6
1972 520 17 0 Nixon/ McGovern 96.8
1804 162 14 0 Jefferson/ Pinckney 92.0
1864 212 21 0 Lincoln/ McClellan 91.0
1980 489 49 0 Reagan/ Carter 90.9
1964 486 52 0 Johnson/ Goldwater 90.3
1932 472 59 0 Roosevelt/ Hoover 88.9
1956 457 73 0 Eisenhower/ Stevenson 86.2
1852 254 42 0 Pierce/ Scott 85.8
1940 449 82 0 Roosevelt/ Wilkie 84.6
1816 183 34 0 Monroe/ King 84.3
1928 444 87 0 Hoover/ Smith 83.6
1952 442 89 0 Eisenhower/  Stevenson 83.2
1872 286 42 21 Grant/ Hendricks/ Brown/ Jenkins/ Davis 81.9
1912 425 88 8 Wilson/ Roosevelt/ Taft 81.6
1944 432 99 0 Roosevelt/ Dewey 81.4
1840 234 60 0 Harrison/ Van Buren 79.6
1988 426 111 0 Bush/ Dukakis 79.3
1832 219 49 18 Jackson/ Clay/ Floyd/ Wirt 76.6
1920 404 127 0 Harding/ Cox 76.1
1924 382 116 13 Coolidge/ Davis/ LaFollette 74.8
1868 214 80 0 Grant/ Seymour 72.8
1904 336 140 0 Roosevelt/ Parker 70.6
1996 379 159 0 Clinton/ Dole 70.4
1808 122 47 6 Madison/ Pinckney/ Clinton 69.7
1992 370 168 0 Clinton/ Bush 68.8
1828 178 83 0 Jackson/ Adams 68.2
2008 365 173 0 Obama/ McCain 67.8
1908 321 162 0 Taft/ Bryan 66.5
1900 292 155 0 McKinley/ Bryan 65.3
1892 277 145 22 Cleveland/ Harrison/ Weaver 62.4
1844 170 105 0 Polk/ Clay 61.8
2012 332 206 0 Obama/ Romney 61.7
1896 271 176 0 McKinley/ Bryan 60.6
2016 306 206 0 Trump/ Clinton 59.8
1888 233 158 0 Harrison/ Cleveland 59.6
1860 180 72 51 Lincoln/ Breckinridge/ Bell/ Douglas 59.4
1812 128 89 0 Madison/ Clinton 59.0
1856 174 114 8 Buchanan/ Fremont/ Fillmore 58.8
1880 214 155 0 Garfield/ Hancock 58.0
1836 170 73 51 Van Buren/ Harrison/ White/ Webster/ Mangum 57.8
1948 303 189 39 Truman/ Dewey/ Thurmond 57.1
1960 303 219 15 Kennedy/ Nixon/ Byrd 56.4
1848 163 127 0 Taylor/Cass 56.2
1968 301 191 46 Nixon/ Humphrey/ Wallace 55.9
1884 219 182 0 Cleveland/ Blaine 54.6
2004 286 251 0 Bush/ Kerry 53.3
1976 297 270 0 Carter/ Ford 52.4
1916 277 254 0 Wilson/ Hughes 52.2
2000 271 266 0 Bush/ Gore 50.5
1876 185 184 0 Hayes/ Tilden 50.1
1824 99 84 78 Jackson/ Adams/ Crawford/ Clay 37.9
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Setting a Magic Set

So, for some wild reason, you feel the need to put together a magic kit for someone you really like.   Rather than going out and laying down a couple of bills on an “executive magic kit” (as you can find various places),  here’s what I’d do:


  • A nice leather briefcase,


  • A copy of Mark Wilson’s Complete Course In Magic,  by Mark Wilson.  Softcover is in print, but hardcover copies in good condition are available very inexpensively from any used-book shop — and you can get an autographed and personalized copy direct from Mark, so that’s the way I’d go.

Then the following gear:

  • Two decks of Bicycle Rider-back poker sized cards, one red, one blue.  Available from any variety store.
  • Six American half-dollars, reasonably well-matched in appearance.  Get the kind with an eagle on the back.  $3.00 at any bank.
  • Two old-fashioned English pennies, the ones that are the same size as half-dollars.  You can get these for dollars at a magic shop, or for pennies at a coin shop.  You aren’t looking for collectibles.
  • A box of 1.5″ Goshman super-soft sponge balls, available from any magic shop.  They come four-to-the box, and are very inexpensive.
  • The Professor’s Nightmare, a rope trick, available at any magic shop.
  • The Twentieth Century Silks.  Available at any magic shop.
  • A set of cups-and-balls (available at any magic shop).
  • A set of 4″ or 5″ linking rings.  Any magic shop.
  • An Okito coin box.

A packet trick.  Choose one from among:

  • Entourage,
  • B’Wave,
  • Twisted Sisters,


  • Skinner’s Ultimate 3-Card Monte.

You can get ’em at any magic shop.

That briefcase will probably be the most expensive thing on the list.

Other books might include:  Modern Coin Magic by J. B. Bobo.  The Royal Road to Card Magic by Jean Hugard and Frederick Braue.  Magic and Showmanship by Henning Nelms.

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