A New Observatory


Tourists marvel at the architects of Stonehenge, which apparently was built to align with the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunset.

Many then innocently return to New York — where on Dec. 5 and Jan. 8 each year the setting sun aligns perfectly with the east-west streets in Manhattan’s main grid.

Apple-Pie Order

ABSTEMIOUS, ADVENTITIOUS, and FACETIOUS contain all the vowels in alphabetical order.

SUBCONTINENTAL and UNCOMPLIMENTARY contain them in reverse order.

Calamari to Go


Newfoundland naturalist Moses Harvey collected the first complete specimen of a giant squid in December 1873.

He kept it in his bathtub.

Night Exercises

A curious circumstance occurred at the Bush Tavern, Bristol, on Monday night, May the 4th, about eleven o’clock. A young man, who has since been discovered to be a sailor, belonging to the Union ship of war, lying at Plymouth, went to bed apparently composed; but before the servant had left the room five minutes, the house was alarmed by his cries of ‘Help me out,’ and by the breaking of glass, occasioned by his bursting through the sash. Though asleep, he continued walking from one roof to the other, and along the narrowest ridges, and at length jumped from the surprising height of thirty feet, without receiving any material injury. He was conveyed to bed, and left the inn the following morning on his journey for Plymouth.

Oxford Herald, May 9, 1812

Writer’s Block


A young man once accosted James Joyce and asked, “May I kiss the hand that wrote Ulysses?”

Joyce replied, “No, it did a lot of other things, too.”

No Vacancy

The world will end on Nov. 13, 2026. That’s according to Austrian cyberneticist Heinz von Foerster, who calculated in a 1960 issue of Science that the human population would reach infinity on that date.

He was joking, but he had a point. To date, population growth hasn’t really inhibited human societies. They’ve just created technology to support larger crowds, which have spawned more inventors, who create more technology, and so on.

Von Foerster’s equation fit 25 data points from the birth of Jesus to 1958, and it stayed on track through 1973. His point was that the doubling time of the human population has been steadily falling, and at this rate it would reach zero in 2026 — so a fundamental change, of some kind, must be coming.

By Any Other Name


AXL ROSE is an anagram of ORAL SEX.

In a Word

n. incorrect pronunciation

Fancy That

31415926535897932384626433832795028841 is a prime number.

It’s also the first 38 digits of pi.

A Change of Heart


A soldier of the 93d regiment, quartered in the barracks, was looked upon to be dead, and after having been laid out in the usual way during two days, was conveyed to the place of interment (St. Nicholas’s churchyard) on yesterday evening, when, on lowering the body into the grave, the soldiers assisting heard the noise of struggling in the coffin, and on examination found the man whom they were in the act of burying, endeavouring with his hands and knees to force up the lid. To their great surprise they found their comrade still alive, and conveyed him home in the open coffin. This should prove an additional warning against premature interment.

Courier, June 13, 1815