In China you can send money to your dead relatives. “Hell banknotes” are burned in a traditional ceremony, after which dead ancestors can use them to bribe the king of hell for a shorter stay.
They’re starting to use credit cards.
Excerpts from 112 Gripes About the French, a handbook produced to help American soldiers understand the French after the Liberation:
- The French are too damned independent. The French are independent. They are proud. They are individualists. So are we. That’s one reason there is friction between us.
- I never heard people gab so much. Gab, gab, gab. If you understood the language it might be interesting and not just “gab.” An American writer, Ambrose Bierce, said, “A bore is a person who talks — when you want him to listen.”
- The French are not as clean as the Germans. Perhaps not. If the Germans had had no soap for five years they wouldn’t be as clean as they might like to be. A learned man once said, “An untidy friend is better than an immaculate enemy.”
- The French can’t drive a car. They can’t keep it up. They ruin vehicles. The French, on the whole, certainly do not drive as well, keep a car up as well, or protect their vehicles as well as we do. Neither do women, compared to men. We have had more mechanical training, more technical experience. And at the present time we have incomparably better maintenance facilities.
The Stone Age isn’t quite over — not everywhere. On North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal lives a tribe of about 250 people, the Sentinelese, who have remained so hostile to contact with outsiders that their society is almost entirely free of modern influences.
They have no agriculture, subsisting through hunting, fishing and gathering plants. It’s not even clear whether they can produce fire without an external source like lightning.
The Indian government has made overtures by leaving gifts, but the warlike Sentinelese drove them off. Earlier this year, Sentinelese archers killed two fishermen who came too close to the island. Their bodies still haven’t been recovered — even a helicopter sent to retrieve them was driven off by arrows.
Judge Learned Hand on the U.S. income tax code, writing in the Yale Law Journal, December 1947:
In my own case the words of such an act as the Income Tax … merely dance before my eyes in a meaningless procession: cross-reference to cross-reference, exception upon exception — couched in abstract terms that offer [me] no handle to seize hold of [and that] leave in my mind only a confused sense of some vitally important, but successfully concealed, purport, which it is my duty to extract, but which is within my power, if at all, only after the most inordinate expenditure of time. I know that these monsters are the result of fabulous industry and ingenuity, plugging up this hole and casting out that net, against all possible evasion; yet at times I cannot help recalling a saying of William James about certain passages of Hegel: that they were no doubt written with a passion of rationality; but that one cannot help wondering whether to the reader they have any significance save that the words are strung together with syntactical correctness.
Even Albert Einstein, who died trying to find a generalized theory of gravitation, wrote, “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”
Countries with compulsory voting:
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Greece, Honduras, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mexico, Nauru, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela
Remember the Y2K crisis? We thought society was going to collapse because we hadn’t trained our computers for the future.
Well, it’s going to happen again. We’re going to run out of Social Security numbers.
Your number is unique; it’s not recycled when you die. About a billion numbers are possible, but we’ve been assigning them since 1936 and we’ve already used up about a third of the possibilities. According to some estimates we could run out by 2075.
What happens then? Who knows? But if our government collapses, head to South Korea: Their social security numbers give access to online video games.
No functioning democracy has ever suffered a famine.
“John Doe” in other countries:
- Australia: Fred Nurk
- Austria: Hans Meier
- Belgium: Jan Janssen
- Colombia: Fulano de Tal
- Croatia: Ivan Horvat
- Czech Republic: Josef Novák
- Estonia: Jaan Tamm
- France: Jean Dupont
- Guatemala: Juan Perez
- Italy: Mario Rossi
- Lithuania: Vardenis Pavardenis
- Malta: Joe Borg
- New Zealand: Joe Bloggs
- Philippines: Juan dela Cruz
- Poland: Jan Kowalski
- Romania: Ion Popescu
- Slovenia: Janez Novak
- South Africa: Koos van der Merwe
In the United States, John Doe is always the defendant. An anonymous plaintiff is Richard Roe.
The sound of Rice Krispies in other languages:
- Finnish: “Riks! Raks! Poks!”
- French: “Cric! Crac! Croc!”
- German: “Knisper! Knasper! Knusper!”
- Swedish: “Piff! Paff! Puff!”
- Spanish: “Pim! Pum! Pam!”
In 2002, pollster Kellyanne Conway found that most Americans could name the three elves but could not name any three of the nine sitting Supreme Court justices.
Are we getting smarter? IQ scores around the world have been going up by about three IQ points per decade.
Suggested reasons include improved nutrition, smaller families, better education, and the stimulating modern environment, but no one really knows what’s causing it.
It’s called the Flynn effect, after New Zealand political scientist who discovered it.
If you’re going to exhibit a talking cat in Georgia, you need a business license, according to a court ruling in 1981. Carl and Elaine Miles had been presenting Blackie the Talking Cat to passersby in Augusta; Blackie would meow “I love you” or “I want my mama,” and the onlookers would give small change to the Mileses.
They objected to the license requirement, saying that the law violated their right to free speech and that it didn’t mention talking animals. But they lost the case in district court in 1982, and an appeals court upheld the decision:
This Court will not hear a claim that Blackie’s right to free speech has been infringed. First, although Blackie arguably possesses a very unusual ability, he cannot be considered a “person” and is therefore not protected by the Bill of Rights. Second, even if Blackie had such a right, we see no need for appellants to assert his right jus tertii.
The court added, “Blackie can clearly speak for himself.”
- From the begining woman has occupied a dependent position, and has been only what man has made her. The Turks, logical fellows, denied her a soul, and made of her an object of barter and sale; the American Indians made of her a beast of burden. In America, since we extended the area of civilization by butchering the Indians, we have copied both.
- The inferiority of the sex is easy of demonstration. It has been said that the mother forms the character of the man so long, that the proposition has become axiomatic. If this be true, we can crush those who prate of the equality of women, by holding up to the gaze of the world the inferior men she has produced. Look at the Congress of the United States.
- My friend is learned. She has a tolerable knowledge of Greek, is an excellent Latin scholar, and as she has read the Constitution of the United States, she excels in political lore the majority of our representatives in Congress. But nevertheless I protest against her voting for several reasons:
- She cannot sing bass! Her voice, as Dr. Bushnell justly observes in his blessed book, is pitched higher than the male voice, which indicates feminine weakness of mind.
- Her form is graceful rather than strong.
- She delights in millinery goods.
- She can’t grow whiskers.
– Satirical lyceum speaker Petroleum Vesuvius Nasby, “The Struggles of a Conservative with the Woman Question,” 1868
“Servants are a necessary evil. He who shall contrive to obviate their necessity, or remove their inconveniences, will render to human comfort a greater benefit than has yet been conferred by all the useful-knowledge societies of the age. They are domestic spies, who continually embarrass the intercourse of the members of a family, or possess themselves of private information that renders their presence hateful, and their absence dangerous. It is a rare thing to see persons who are not controlled by their servants. Theirs, too, is not the only kitchen cabinet which begins by serving and ends by ruling.”
– From The Laws of Etiquette, by “A Gentleman,” 1836
- albocracy – government by white people
- argentocracy – government by money
- barbarocracy – government by barbarians
- cannonarchy – government by superior firepower
- capelocracy – government by shopkeepers
- chiliarchy – government by one thousand people
- chirocracy – government by physical force
- corpocracy – government by corporate bureaucrats
- demonarchy – government by a demon
- dulocracy – government by slaves
- foolocracy – government by fools
- iatrarchy – government by physicians
- infantocracy – government by an infant
- millionocracy – government by millionaires
- neocracy – government by new or inexperienced rulers
- partocracy – government by a single unopposed political party
- pollarchy – government by the multitude or a mob
- squarsonocracy – government by landholding clergymen
- tritheocracy – government by three gods
- xenocracy – government by a body of foreigners
Dates of first domestication:
- Sheep, goat, pig: 8,000 B.C.
- Cow: 6,000 B.C.
- Horse: 4,000 B.C.
- Donkey, water buffalo, honeybee: 4,000 B.C.
- Chicken, cat, llama: 3,500 B.C.
- Silkworm: 3,000 B.C.
- Camel: 2,500 B.C.
Dogs, by far, are man’s best friend. Some estimates put them with us as early as 150,000 B.C. It’s thought that scavenging wolves grew less fearful of humans, and we found they could help with hunting and warn us of approaching enemies. “To his dog, every man is Napoleon,” wrote Aldous Huxley. “Hence the constant popularity of dogs.”
Large countries get the most attention, but the picture changes when you adjust for size:
- Highest GDP: United States
- Highest GDP per capita: Luxembourg
- Largest military: China
- Largest military per capita: Vatican City
- Most expensive military: United States
- Most expensive military per capita: Israel
- Most Olympic medals: United States
- Most Olympic medals per capita: Australia
- Most Cannes Palmes d’Or: United States
- Most Cannes Palmes d’Or per capita: Denmark
- Most Nobel Prizes: United States
- Most Nobel Prizes per capita: Iceland
- Most startup companies: United States
- Most startup companies per capita: Israel
Vatican City has the highest per capita crime rate of any nation on earth.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
The United Kingdom has 59 million people and 67 million credit cards.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
During the French Fourth Republic, Ferdinand Lop ran for president proposing to ban poverty after 10 p.m.
“The great affair, we always find, is to get money.” So wrote Adam Smith, but he might have been surprised to visit the Micronesian island of Yap, where a coin’s value is determined by its size. If a native pays you a large debt, you might find yourself with a limestone coin 12 feet in diameter and weighing several tons. You might display it outside your home, as a status symbol — or you might just leave it where it is (even underwater) and agree that ownership has been transferred. Easier on the back.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
Does this describe you?
You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.
If you said yes, you’ve been had. The description was assembled from random horoscopes by psychologist B.R. Forer in 1948. He found that if you give someone a vague, mostly positive personality description, and tell him it’s tailored specifically to him, he’ll rate it as highly accurate. It’s called “the Forer effect.”
Countries with the densest populations:
- Monaco – 16,620 inhabitants per square kilometer
- Singapore – 6,389
- Vatican City – 2,093
- Malta – 1,261
- Maldives – 1,163
- Bahrain – 1,035
- Bangladesh – 1,002
- Barbados – 647
- Republic of China (Taiwan) – 636
- Nauru – 621
… and the least dense:
- Guyana – 3 inhabitants per square kilometer
- Canada – 3
- Libya – 3
- Mauritania – 2
- Iceland – 2
- Botswana – 2
- Suriname – 2
- Australia – 2
- Namibia – 2
- Mongolia – 1
Taken as a whole, the population density of the planet is 43 inhabitants per square kilometer.
Faux pas around the world:
- Arab countries: Eating with the left hand.
- China: Giving someone a timepiece as a gift.
- Czech Republic: Shaking hands while wearing gloves.
- France: Giving chrysanthemums to the host.
- Romania: Giving an even number of flowers.
- Thailand: Touching someone on the head.
In Thailand it’s also improper to step over or stand on bills or coins. They bear the face of the king, who is highly revered.
Personality traits associated with various blood types, according to Japanese superstition:
- Best traits: Conservative, reserved, patient, punctual, perfectionist, and good with plants.
- Worst traits: Introverted, obsessive, stubborn, and self-conscious. Anal retentive.
- Famous examples: George H.W. Bush, O.J. Simpson, Britney Spears
- Best traits: Creative and passionate. Animal-loving. Optimistic and flexible.
- Worst traits: Forgetful, irresponsible, individualistic.
- Famous examples: Akira Kurosawa, Jack Nicholson, Luciano Pavarotti
- Best traits: Cool, controlled, rational. Sociable and popular. Empathic.
- Worst traits: Aloof, critical, indecisive, and unforgiving.
- Famous examples: John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger
- Best traits: Ambitious, athletic, robust, and self-confident. Natural leaders.
- Worst traits: Arrogant, vain, and insensitive. Ruthless.
- Famous examples: Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth, John Lennon
Interestingly, Type A blood is the most common in Japan, while Type O is most common in the United States — and among Japanese prime ministers.