The Phaistos Disk

This disk was found in the ruins of a Minoan palace in 1908.

It’s an archaeological mystery. No one knows where it came from, what it was used for, or the language or meaning of its inscription. It’s known simply at the Phaistos disk.

A Poor Showing

Charlie Chaplin once lost a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest. He didn’t even make the finals.

Afterward he told a reporter that he was “tempted to give lessons in the Chaplin walk, out of pity as well as in the desire to see the thing done correctly.”

You Go First

“PIG’S EARS, LYONNAISE — Singe off all the hair from pig’s ears, scrape and wash well and cut lengthwise into strips. Place them in a saucepan with a little stock, add a small quantity of flour, a few slices of onion fried, salt and pepper to taste. Place the pan over a slow fire and simmer until the ears are thoroughly cooked. Arrange on a dish, add a little lemon juice to the liquor and pour over the ears. Serve with a garnish of fried bread.”

— From Good Things to Eat as Suggested by Rufus: A Collection of Practical Recipes for Preparing Meats, Game, Fowl, Fish, Puddings, Pastries, Etc., by Rufus Estes, Formerly of the Pullman Company Private Car Service, and Present Chef of the Subsidiary Companies of the United States Steel Corporations in Chicago, 1911

Surf’s Up

The supertanker Esso Languedoc was weathering a storm off Durban, South Africa, in 1980 when an enormous wave struck it from behind and washed over the deck. This photo was taken by first mate Philippe Lijour. That mast is 25 meters tall, which means the wave was the size of a four-story building.

So-called freak waves were once thought to be legendary, but now it appears that rogue waves even three times this size, 100 feet tall, can occur spontaneously in the middle of the ocean, sometimes in perfectly clear weather. No one’s sure why.


“The only man, woman or child who wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors is dead.” — e.e. cummings, on the death of Warren G. Harding

Pearl Curran

In 1913, Chicago housewife Pearl Curran was messing around with a Ouija board when she claimed to receive the message “Many moons ago I lived. Again I come. Patience Worth my name. If thou shalt live, so shall I.”

On investigating the name, she claimed to find that a Patience Worth had lived in Dorsetshire, England, in either 1649 or 1694. Through the Ouija board Patience told Curran that she had moved to the United States and been murdered by Indians. “From England across the sea. Could I but hold your ear for the lessons I could teach!”

So Pearl/Patience began to publish novels, stories and poetry. Critics pointed out that a 17th-century spirit shouldn’t be able to produce a Victorian novel, as Patience did, but supporters argued that the language she used was beyond Pearl’s normal abilities.

That may have spelled the end of their partnership, actually. Apparently frustrated with the intelligence of her host, Patience clammed up, except for the occasional sarcastic comment. She’d gone silent by the time Pearl died in 1937 … and, presumably, joined her.

Next Stop …

Hell is in Norway, it turns out. The tiny village has a population of 352. This is the train station (curiously, “Gods Expedition,” or godsekspedisjon, means “cargo handling office”).

And, yes, in winter the temperature can drop below zero.

Low Billing

The word eternity occurs only once in the King James Bible (in Isaiah 57, verse 15).


In July 1808, 100 kilometers east of the Montana Rockies, Lewis and Clark wrote, “We have repeatedly heard a strange noise coming from the mountains. … It is heard at different periods of the day and night … and consists of one stroke only, or of five or six discharges in quick succession. It is loud and resembles precisely the sound of a six-pound piece of ordnance.”

They were leading the first overland expedition of the United States territory, so it wasn’t a cannon. The sounds have never been explained.

Snow Miser

The world’s tallest snowman was Angus, King of the Mountain, built in Maine in 1999. He stood 113 feet 7 inches tall.

In Lithuania, a snowman is called “a man without brains.” Last winter, protesters made 141 snowmen in their capital — one for each member of parliament.