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Today's Stichomancy for B. F. Skinner

The first excerpt represents the element of Air. It speaks of mental influences and the process of thought, and is drawn from The Commission in Lunacy by Honore de Balzac:

the whole of the eleven hundred thousand francs that were due. Thus I enjoy the happiness of having made this restitution without doing my children the smallest wrong.

"These, monsieur, are the reasons for the payments made to Madame Jeanrenaud and her son."

"So Madame d'Espard knew the motives of your retirement?" said the judge, controlling the emotion he felt at this narrative.

"Yes, monsieur."

Popinot gave an expressive shrug; he rose and opened the door into the next room.

"Noel, you can go," said he to his clerk.

The second excerpt represents the element of Fire. It speaks of emotional influences and base passions, and is drawn from 'Twixt Land & Sea by Joseph Conrad:

seemed to pass like a saddening cloud. "On the very top," he repeated, rousing himself in fierce reaction to snatch his laced cap off his head with a horizontal, derisive flourish towards the gangway. "And now you may go ashore to the courts, you damned Englishman!" he said.


The affair of the brig Bonito was bound to cause a sensation in Makassar, the prettiest, and perhaps the cleanest-looking of all the towns in the Islands; which however knows few occasions for excitement. The "front," with its special population, was soon aware that something had happened. A steamer towing a sailing

'Twixt Land & Sea
The third excerpt represents the element of Water. It speaks of pure spiritual influences and feelings of love, and is drawn from Sylvie and Bruno by Lewis Carroll:

loose straw, that bristled all about him, suggested that he had been originally stuffed with it, and that nearly all the stuffing had come out.

Sylvie and Bruno waited patiently till the end of the first verse. Then Sylvie advanced alone (Bruno having suddenly turned shy) and timidly introduced herself with the words "Please, I'm Sylvie!"

"And who's that other thing?', said the Gardener.

"What thing?" said Sylvie, looking round. "Oh, that's Bruno. He's my brother."

"Was he your brother yesterday?" the Gardener anxiously enquired.

"Course I were!" cried Bruno, who had gradually crept nearer,

Sylvie and Bruno
The fourth excerpt represents the element of Earth. It speaks of physical influences and the impact of the unseen on the visible world, and is drawn from The Bickerstaff-Partridge Papers by Jonathan Swift:

since which time it had the perpetual possession of his mind and thoughts, and he did verily believe was the true natural cause of his present distemper: For, said he, I am thoroughly persuaded, and I think I have very good reasons, that Mr. Bickerstaff spoke altogether by guess, and knew no more what will happen this year than I did myself. I told him his discourse surprized me; and I would be glad he were in a state of health to be able to tell me what reason he had to be convinc'd of Mr. Bickerstaff's ignorance. He reply'd, I am a poor ignorant fellow, bred to a mean trade, yet I have sense enough to know that all pretences of foretelling by astrology are deceits, for this manifest reason,