All Hands on Deck,M1

James Garfield, when not proving the Pythagorean theorem, could write simultaneously in Latin with one hand and in ancient Greek with the other.

Thea Alba (left), “the woman with 10 brains,” toured Europe in 1920 displaying her ability to write in French, German, and English at the same time and to draw a landscape in colored chalk using both hands at once.

You can produce mirror writing by holding a pencil in each hand, writing normally with your dominant hand, and willing the other hand to match it.

“The Glass of Wine Under the Hat”

Place a glass of wine upon a table, put a hat over it, and offer to lay a wager with any of the company that you will empty the glass without lifting the hat. When your proposition is accepted, desire the company not to touch the hat; and then get under the table, and commence making a sucking noise, smacking your lips at intervals, as though you were swallowing the wine with infinite satisfaction to yourself. After a minute or two, come from under the table, and address the person who took your wager with, ‘Now, sir.’ His curiosity being, of course, excited, he will lift up the hat, in order to see whether you have really performed what you promised; and the instant he does so, take up the glass, and after having swallowed its contents, say, ‘You have lost, sir, for you see I have drunk the wine without raising up the hat.’

— Samuel Williams, The Boy’s Treasury of Sports, Pastimes, and Recreations, 1847


“Did you ever notice that remarkable coincidence? Bernard Shaw is 61 years old. H.G. Wells is 51, G.K. Chesterton is 41, you’re 31 and I’m 21 — all the great authors of the world in arithmetical progression.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald in a 1918 letter to Shane Leslie

What Is It?

Here’s one of the most beautiful riddles in the English language. It’s commonly attributed to Byron, but it was composed in 1814 by Catherine Maria Fanshawe, the daughter of a Surrey squire:

‘Twas whispered in heaven, ’twas muttered in hell,
And echo caught faintly the sound as it fell;
On the confines of earth ’twas permitted to rest,
And the depths of the ocean its presence confessed.
‘Twill be found in the sphere when ’tis riven asunder;
‘Tis seen in the lightning, and heard in the thunder.
‘Twas allotted to man from his earliest breath;
It assists at his birth, and attends him in death;
It presides o’er his happiness, honour, and health;
Is the prop of his house, and the end of his wealth.
In the heap of the miser ’tis hoarded with care,
But is sure to be lost in his prodigal heir.
It begins every hope, every wish it must bound,
It prays with the hermit, with monarchs is crowned.
Without it the soldier and seaman may roam,
But woe to the wretch who expels it from home.
In the whispers of conscience ’tis sure to be found;
Nor e’en in the whirlwind of passion is drowned.
‘Twill soften the heart, and though deaf to the ear,
‘Twill make it acutely and constantly hear.
But, in short, let it rest like a beautiful flower;
Oh, breathe on it softly, it dies in an hour.

What is it?

Click for Answer

Scales of Justice

Charles De Gaulle said, “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”

The town of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire has found a practical solution: It weighs its mayors at the start and end of each term.

Any weight gain is deemed to have been made at taxpayers’ expense, and it’s met with jeers and the occasional tomato.

No one knows how the custom began, but it dates at least from the time of Edward I and apparently was once widespread. Wycombe is the only town in England where it survives.

“A Huge Cuttlefish”

On the 26th of April, 1875, a very large Calamary (or Squid) was met with on the northwest of Biffin Island, Connemara [Ireland]. The crew of a curragh (or coracle) observed to seaward a large floating mass surrounded with gulls. They pulled out to it, believing it to be wreck, but to their astonishment found it was an enormous cuttlefish, lying perfectly still, as if basking on the surface of the water. Paddling up with caution, they lopped off one of its arms. The animal immediately set out to sea, rushing through the water at a tremendous pace. The men gave chase, and, after a hard pull in their frail canvas craft, came up with it, five miles out in the open Atlantic, and severed another of the arms and the head. These portions are now in the Dublin Museum. The shorter arms measure each eight feet in length, and fifteen inches round the base; the tentacular arms (or longer arms) are said to have been thirty feet long. The body sank.

(Recounted in The World of Wonders, 1883)