“No Ass to Be Found Here”

One day we all set out on a tour to the Farm. Jack and Frank had gone on first, while my wife and I were as yet close to the Cave. All at once the boys came back, and Fritz said, “Look at that strange thing on its way up the path. What can it be?”

I cast my eye on the spot and cried out, “Fly all of you to the Cave! fly for your lives!” for I saw it was a huge snake, or boa, that would make a meal of one of us, if we did not get out of its way.

We all ran in doors, and put bars up to the door of the Cave. A large dove cote had been made on the roof, and to this we got up through a hole in the rock.

Ernest took aim with his gun, and shot at the snake, so did Fritz and Jack, but it gave no sign that they had hit it. I then tried my skill, but it did not seem to feel my shot any more than theirs, though I was sure I must have struck its head. Just as we took aim at it once more, we saw it turn round and glide through the reeds in the marsh.

— From The Swiss Family Robinson Told in Words of One Syllable by Mary Godolphin (1784-1864)

Ambrose Bierce’s Disappearance

“Good-by — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico — ah, that is euthanasia!”

— An excerpt from one of Ambrose Bierce’s last letters, posted in 1913 from Chihuahua. He vanished shortly afterward. His disappearance remains a mystery.

Virgil’s Pizza

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Virgil’s Aeneid contains arguably the first written reference to pizza:

Their homely fare dispatch’d, the hungry band
Invade their trenchers next, and soon devour,
To mend the scanty meal, their cakes of flour.
Ascanius this observ’d, and smiling said:
“See, we devour the plates on which we fed.”

Hamlet in Klingon

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Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy, in Klingon:

taH pagh taHbe’. DaH mu’tlheghvam vIqelnIS.
quv’a’, yabDaq San vaQ cha, pu’ je SIQDI’?
pagh, Seng bIQ’a’Hey SuvmeH nuHmey SuqDI’,
‘ej, Suvmo’, rInmoHDI’? Hegh. Qong — Qong neH —
‘ej QongDI’, tIq ‘oy’, wa’SanID Daw”e’ je
cho’nISbogh porghDaj rInmoHlaH net Har.
yIn mevbogh mIwvam’e’ wIruchqangbej.
Hegh. Qong. QongDI’ chaq naj. toH, waQlaw’ ghu’vam!
HeghDaq maQongtaHvIS, tugh nuq wInajlaH,
volchaHmajvo’ jubbe’wI’ bep wIwoDDI’;
‘e’ wIqelDI’, maHeDnIS. Qugh DISIQnIS,
SIQmoHmo’ qechvam. Qugh yIn nI’moH ‘oH.

It either endures, or it does not endure. Now, I must consider this sentence.
Is it honorable, when one endures the torpedoes and phasers of agressive fate?
Or, when one obtains weapons to fight a seeming ocean of troubles,
And when, by fighting, one finishes them? One dies. One sleeps. One merely sleeps.
And when one sleeps, it is believed that one can finish the pain of the heart
And the thousand revolts which one’s body must succeed to.
We are certainly willing to initiate this way to finish life.
One dies. One sleeps. When one sleeps, perhaps one dreams. Well, this situation seems to be the obstacle!
What we can soon dream of, while sleeping in death,
Having thrown away from our shoulders the cargo of the mortal —
When we consider that, we must retreat. We must endure disasters,
Because this idea makes us endure them. It lengthens the life of the disasters.

Contradictory Proverbs

Look before you leap.
He who hesitates is lost.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Out of sight, out of mind.

You’re never too old to learn.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Better safe than sorry.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Nice guys finish last.

Many hands make light work.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Silence is golden.

Alice’s Riddle

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Everyone likes a good riddle. In Chapter 7 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter poses a famous one: “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Lewis Carroll intended that it should have no solution, but puzzle maven Sam Loyd offered these anyway:

  • Because the notes for which they are noted are not noted for being musical notes.
  • Poe wrote on both.
  • Bills and tales are among their characteristics.
  • Because they both stand on their legs, conceal their steels (steals), and ought to be made to shut up.

In 1896, Carroll proposed an answer himself: “Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!” (“Nevar” is “raven” spelled backward.)