High-Rent Districts

World’s most expensive cities, according to a worldwide 2006 cost of living survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting:

  1. Moscow
  2. Seoul
  3. Tokyo
  4. Hong Kong
  5. London
  6. Osaka
  7. Geneva
  8. Copenhagen
  9. Zurich
  10. Oslo

New York was number 11.

Brain Food

Tom’s Restaurant, famous as the diner in Seinfeld, shares a building with the Goddard Institute of Space Studies in Manhattan.


In 1928, the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia received an old automaton of ingenious design and unknown origin. Activated by springs and guided by a series of cams, the mechanical figure could draw seven different pictures and write verses in both French and English.

Who devised such an elegant machine? That remained a riddle until restorers repaired it. Then the mechanical man penned the words “Written by the automaton made by Maillardet,” a reference to Swiss mechanician Henri Maillardet. Unbelievably, he had built the machine more than 120 years earlier, in 1805 — and receives credit today only because he had taught the machine his name.

“Bulwell Is Considered a Good Writer”

Excerpts from 19th-century students’ English exams:

  • “Lord Byron was the son of an heiress and a drunken man.”
  • “Gibbon wrote a history of his travels in Italy. This was original.”
  • “George Eliot left a wife and children who mourned greatly for his genius.”
  • “George Eliot Miss Mary Evans Mrs. Cross Mrs. Lewis was the greatest female poet unless George Sands is made an exception of.”
  • “Sir Walter Scott Charles Bronte Alfred the Great and Johnson were the first great novelists.”
  • “Thomas Babington Makorlay graduated at Harvard and then studied law, he was raised to the peerage as baron in 1557 and died in 1776.”
  • “Homer’s writings are Homer’s Essays Virgil the Aenid and Paradise lost some people say that these poems were not written by Homer but by another man of the same name.”
  • “A sort of sadness kind of shone in Bryant’s poems.”
  • “Holmes is a very profligate and amusing writer.”

– From Mark Twain, “English as She Is Taught: Being Genuine Answers to Examination Questions in Our Public Schools,” 1887

Think Again

Chocolate is toxic to cats, dogs, parrots, and horses.

The “Flaming Rainbow”


When sunlight is refracted through ice crystals in cirrus clouds, it sometimes produces this rare phenomenon, known as a circumhorizontal arc.

It happens only when the sun is high in the sky, so there’s no pot of gold.

(Thanks, Mysticwolf.)

Overtoun Bridge

Since the 1970s, scores of dogs have leaped from Scotland’s Overtoun Estate bridge, west of Glasgow.

The 60-foot fall kills most of them. Those that survive often try again.

No one knows why.


“We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.” — Thomas Edison

“Her Character: Or What She Is”


“A Bawd is the Refuse of an Old Whore, who having been burnt herself, does like Charcoal help to set greener Wood on Fire; She is one of Natures Errata’s, and a true Daughter of Eve, who having first undone herself, tempts others to the same Destruction. She has formerly been one of Sampson’s Foxes, and has carried so much fire in her Tail, as has burnt all those that have had to do with her: But the mark being out of her Mouth, and she grown past her own Labour, yet being a well-wisher to the Mathematicks, she sets up for a Procurer of fresh Goods for her old Customers. And so careful she is to help Men to good Ware, that she seldom puts a Comodity into their hands, but what has been try’d before; and having always prov’d well, thinks she can Warrant ‘em the better. She’s a great Preserver of Maiden-heads; for tho’ she Exposes ‘em to every new Comer, she takes care that they shall never be lost: And tho’ never so many get it, yet none carries it away, but she still has it ready for the next Customers.”

The London-Bawd: With Her Character and Life: Discovering the Various and Subtle Intrigues of Lewd Women, 1705

The Blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek

The Fugate family of rural Kentucky has an odd trait — since the early 1800s, some members of the family have been blue.

Not depressed — literally blue. The family share a genetic blood disorder that has left generations of Fugates with blue-hued skin.

The family’s inbreeding has diminished with time, and today’s members are mostly pink, but a blue Fugate was reported as recently as 1975. Somebody should write a song.