Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University wants to know about your coincidences!

Estimated Taxes Are Exact

In 2012 after completing my federal-tax return, I calculated the amount I’d need to pay each quarter in estimated federal income taxes for 2013. When completing my federal-tax return for that year, the amount I owed was exactly the same as each of those estimated payments.

Forgotten letter to PLAYBOY appears unexpectedly

A more prosaic example occurred when I was a senior in Prof Quick’s Modern Grammar course at Arizona State University in the spring of 1972. For an oral presentation to the class, I decided on rude expletives. At the time, most dictionaries did not include entries for so-called “four-letter words.” Early in the semester in preparation, I wrote to Henry Bosley Woolf, then the editor-in-chief of Webster’s Dictionary, requesting the etymology of “fuck.” He personally wrote back – the letter alone impressed my professor – giving me the principal information I lacked.

Unexpected book gift contains letter to author

In 1979, shortly before I wed my wife of nearly 35 years, after reading one of John Simon’s columns in Esquire, I wrote to the eminent critic of the arts. Without mentioning me by name – “A much more sophisticated letter comes from a teacher in Yuma, Arizona, yet it, too, profoundly disturbs me” – he quoted a paragraph from my epistle in a later column before verbally ripping it to shreds.

Do we bring luck to football team?

Or this – Do we really bring good luck to a football team? On a Saturday last November, Nora & I were invited to watch the UW Cowboys play their final football game of the season, defeating the UNLV Rebels 35-28. This was the fifth time in the past four years we've been welcomed to watch from either the Wildcatter luxury suites or the Skybox. Twice this year we attended a game. Each time we were guests, so we had no choice in which game we could attend. Thus, the games were random selections & independent events. All five times we witnessed the Cowboys victorious.

Uncanny political events

On July 4th, 1826, after reconciling through correspondence their longtime acrimonious political differences, John Adams, second president of the United States, & Thomas Jefferson, who had been Adams’s vice president prior to ascending to the presidency, died on the day they’d both contributed to making Independence Day. On Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 1884, Teddy Roosevelt’s mother & wife died on the same day. Following President John F.

Assassination in Sarajevo

The multiple instances of errors & confusion that led to the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914, any one of which could have prevented the murder that ignited World War I, seem invented for a fictional plot too full of coincidental misadventures to be taken seriously.

Fortuitous acquaintanceship with woman I'd marry

After reading a paragraph from Russian author Ludmila Ulitskaya’s novel, The Big Green Tent, in Lenoid Bershidsky’s book review in The Atlantic, I was reminded of my own first acquaintance with the young woman who became my wife. It’s fascinating to trace the trajectories of people destined to meet. Sometimes such encounters happen without any special effort of fate, without elaborate convolutions of plot, following the natural course of events—say, people live in adjacent buildings, or go to the same school; they get to know each other at college or at work.

Man seeks to find me after my brief appearance on radio about composting

Five years ago when I began thermophilic composting, depositing all of our organic waste into a compost pile in the backyard, I called Ira Flatow during his Science Friday program on NPR to report my project related to his theme of conservation of resources on college campuses. Though I only occasionally have time to listen to the noon broadcast on Fridays, my call was the first answered.

Consecutive double yolks in Turkey on Easter Sunday

What to make of the succession of seven double-yolked eggs out of a total of ten I broke open when making scrambled eggs on Easter Sunday in Turkey twenty years ago? Turkey is sometimes referred to as the “Other Holy Land” because of the seven churches of Asia Minor that are mentioned in the New Testament Book of Revelation. Was that supposed to be significant to me an agnostic? “In England, a man went to the store and bought a package of six eggs. He cracked the first one open and found a double yolk. Then he cracked open the second, two yolks in that one as well.

College associate

While on duty as an Army enlistee specialist in Bangkok in April, 1968, I was greeted at an Army office by an Army Major I last spoke to in the ROTC office at the Pennsylvania college from which I graduated in May, 1967.

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