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Five Questions, One Answer #021

Q1: What is, traditionally, the principal unit of measurement for measuring floorspace in Taiwan? Taipei 101's floorspace of 379,296 square meters converts to about 114,737 of the unit in question.

Q2: If you're playing Magic: The Gathering, what slangy verb (synonymous with poke, zap, and Tim) might you use to signify dealing one hit point of damage to a target?

Q3: Analogies: Rosalind is to Ganymede as Éowyn is to Dernhelm as Fa Mulan is to whom?

Q4: What fictional wanderer, introduced in a 1933 book often read by Captain Kangaroo, lives with “his mother and his father and two sisters and three brothers and eleven aunts and seven uncles and forty-two cousins”?

Q5: What networking utility, first written for 4.2a BSD UNIX in 1983, sends echo request packets and reports on echo replies?

Thinking space. Use it wisely.

Meditation with a statue at a Taiwanese temple near Taizhong.
"Taiwanese temple (near Taizhong), meditation with statue," by user Yug, from Wikimedia.
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Drumroll, please ...

This week's answer: Ping.

A1: Originally, got Taipei 101's floor area from Wikipedia (citing Skyscraper Page), and used an online conversion site to go from square meters to ping. However, Taipei 101's own website gives different numbers, so I used theirs for both square meters and ping. (Which at least confirmed for me that ping are used in Taiwan.)

Taipei 101 is the tallest building in Taiwan and a former tallest building in the world, though now it's the 8th tallest.

Interestingly, Google itself, when asked to convert square meters to ping, instead converts to pyeong, which are different units. 

A2: I've never played Magic: The Gathering, so if that slang use seems incorrect, blame my limited research skills. I pulled the concept and synonyms from the Comprehensive Lexicon of MTG Slang on Reddit and Gamepedia

A3: Rosalind dresses as a young man named Ganymede in As You Like It. (Bonus points if you can identify the other two Shakespeare heroines that fit this trope.)

In The Lord of the Rings, Éowyn masquerades as a man named Dernhelm so she can fight with the army of Rohan before making the Witch King ruminate on word choice in prophecy.

And in Mulan, the title character joins the army by pretending to be a man named Ping. 

Animated GIF: Mulan as Ping saying "You know how it is when you get those manly urges and you just gotta kill something."

A4: I'll be honest: I vaguely remember Captain Kangaroo reading The Story about Ping, but the only concrete references to this online come in passing. No video, that I could find. But I left that detail in because, well, I loved Captain Kangaroo. 

Basic plot: A duck from a large family doesn't want to get spanked by his owner, so runs away and spends a night on the Yangtze. He's almost prepared for dinner, but a boy frees him in time to go home the next day.

Parents reading the book feel uncomfortable because of the stereotypical yellow-skinned illustrations but can't decide if the story itself is maybe OK, except for the spanking.

Also, this book makes an appearance and provides the thematic underpinning for "New Year's Eve," the season 3 finale of Louie

The Story About Ping
A5: Mike Muuss wrote Ping, which he called "a little thousand-line hack," one night in December 1983. It became a standard part of Berkeley UNIX, and subsequently part of many UNIX and Windows operating systems. 

There's a long tradition of leaving Amazon reviews for The Story about Ping that treat it as a metaphor for the networking utility.

Muuss named his program after the "ping" sound made in an active sonar system, and that sense of the word traces back to the onomatopoetic sound of metal striking metal. Katy Waldman details a nice history of the word in Slate's Lexicon Valley.  
End Notes

When did you know this week's answer was "ping"?
Taiwanese measurement
Magic slang

duck book

UNIX utility
when I read the answer

Are there other pings? You bet there are other pings. (I'd forgotten that an internal combustion engine can go ping in the US, but pink in the UK.)

If you love trivia contests: Learned League's 72nd season starts in February. I've got an invite — your first season is free! Let me know if you're interested, and you can swear to neither cheat nor miss any matches in season. 

Also, signups for round 2 of The Inkling will begin next week. You can sign up for the weekly, highly entertaining Ink Blotter newsletter, as well. 

FYI: Today's email teaser comes from Samuel Beckett's piece "Ping."

Your obt. qzmr.,

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"Birth," from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
Disappointing that the most expensive machine in the hospital seemingly does not go "ping."