El Comandante

When Fidel Castro was 12 years old, he sent the following letter to Franklin Roosevelt:

Colegio de Dolores
Apartado 1
Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba.

Nov 6, 1946
Mr. Franklin Roosvelt,
President of the United States

My good friend Roosvelt:

I don’t know very English, but I know as much as write to you. I like to hear the radio, and I am very happy because I heard in it that you will be President for a new (período)

I am twelve years old. I am a boy but I think very much but I do not think that I am writing to the President of the United States.

If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because never I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them.

My address is:
Sr. Fidel Castro
Colegio de Dolores
Santiago de Cuba
Oriente, Cuba.

I don’t know very English but I know very much Spanish and I suppose you don’t know very Spanish but you know very English because you are American but I am not American.

Thanks you very much.

Good by, Your friend,

Fidel Castro

He added a postscript:

“If you want iron to make your ships I will show you to you the bigest (minas) of iron of the land. They are in Mayari, Oriente, Cuba.”

No, Seriously


There’s never a good time for a tsunami, but the one that hit Hawaii in 1946 (visible at center right) was particularly unfortunate. It landed on April 1, and many residents dismissed the warnings as an April Fools prank. Ultimately 165 people died.

Library Hotel

New York’s Library Hotel has 10 floors, each decorated according to a major category in the Dewey Decimal System. Each room has its own subcategory or genre, including appropriate books and art. Rooms:

  • Third Floor: Social Sciences. 300.006 Law, 300.005 Money, 300.004 World Culture, 300.003 Economics, 300.002 Political Science, 300.001 Communication
  • Fourth Floor: Language. 400.006 Ancient Language, 400.005 Middle Eastern Language, 400.004 Asian Language, 400.003 Germanic Language, 400.002 Romance Language, 400.001 Slavic Language
  • Fifth Floor: Math and Science. 500.006 Astronomy, 500.005 Dinosaurs, 500.004 Botany, 500.003 Zoology, 500.002 Geology, 500.001 Mathematics
  • Sixth Floor: Technology. 600.006 Health & Beauty, 600.005 Computers, 600.004 Medicine, 600.003 Management, 600.002 Manufacturing, 600.001 Advertising
  • Seventh Floor: The Arts. 700.006 Fashion Design, 700.005 Music, 700.004 Photography, 700.003 Performing Arts, 700.002 Paintings, 700.001 Architecture
  • Eighth Floor: Literature. 800.006 Mystery, 800.005 Fairy Tales, 800.004 Dramatic Literature, 800.003 Poetry, 800.002 Classic Fiction, 800.001 Erotic Literature
  • Ninth Floor: History. 900.006 Biography, 900.005 Geography & Travel, 900.004 Asian History, 900.003 Oceanography, 900.002 Ancient History, 900.001 20th Century History
  • Tenth Floor: General Knowledge. 1000.006 New Media, 1000.005 Journalism, 1000.004 Museums, 1000.003 Encyclopedic Works, 1000.002 Almanacs, 1000.001 Libraries
  • Eleventh Floor: Philosophy. 1100.006 Love, 1100.005 Paranormal, 1100.004 Psychology, 1100.003 Philosophy, 1100.002 Ethics, 1100.001 Logic
  • Twelfth Floor: Religion. 1200.006 Ancient Religion (Mythology), 1200.005 Native American Religion, 1200.004 Germanic Religion, 1200.003 New Age, 1200.002 African Religion, 1200.001 Eastern Religion

Canary Bruiser

Big Bird is 8 feet 2 inches tall.

Worse Than High Heels


The Chinese practice of footbinding, popular since medieval times, was banned only in 1911. Young girls’ feet were wrapped in bandages to prevent them from growing longer than 4 inches. By age 3, four toes on each foot would break, often leading to infection, paralysis and atrophy. Some elderly Chinese women today still show disabilities.


“A country can be judged by the quality of its proverbs.” — German proverb

In a Word

n. an idler

Watts Towers

“Let each man exercise the art he knows,” wrote Aristophanes 2400 years ago. That spirit inspired Italian immigrant construction worker Sabato Rodia, who spent 33 years building the Watts Towers in his spare time.

“I had in mind to do something big and I did it,” he said. He started work in 1921, and by 1954 he’d created 17 interconnected structures, some nearly 100 feet tall. His materials included broken pottery, scrap metal, bottles, bed frames, and seashells, and he assembled them using hand tools and window washers’ equipment.

Rodia finally gave up and left after repeated vandalism — local rumors said the towers were antennae for communicating with the Japanese. But when the city actually broke a crane trying to knock them down, it changed its mind and preserved the site as a state historical park.


“I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man’s being unable to sit still in a room.” — Blaise Pascal

“Does a One-Legged Duck Swim in Circles?”

Recent winners of the Foot in Mouth Award, presented each year by the British Plain English Campaign for “a baffling quote by a public figure”:

  • 2005: Welsh politician Rhodri Morgan on the police: “The only thing which isn’t up for grabs is no change, and I think it’s fair to say it’s all to play for, except for no change.”
  • 2004: M.P. Boris Johnson on the television program Have I Got News For You: “I could not fail to disagree with you less.”
  • 2003: U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a news conference: “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns–the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
  • 2002: Actor Richard Gere: “I know who I am. No one else knows who I am. If I was a giraffe and somebody said I was a snake, I’d think, ‘No, actually I am a giraffe.'”
  • 2001: English artist Tracey Emin: “When it comes to words, I have a uniqueness that I find almost impossible in terms of art–and it’s my words that actually make my art quite unique.”
  • 2000: Alicia Silverstone, quoted in the Sunday Telegraph: “I think that [the film] Clueless was very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it’s true lightness.”