Or Best Offer

Unusual items sold on eBay:

  • The right to permanently tattoo an ad on a woman’s forehead (sold to GoldenPalace.com for $10,000)
  • A Volkswagen Golf that had previously been registered to Josef Kardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) (sold on eBay’s German site for €188,938.88)
  • The first ride on Kingda Ka, the tallest roller coaster on Earth ($1,691.66)
  • A piece of Nutri-Grain resembling E.T. ($1,035 Australian)
  • A 50,000-year-old mammoth weighing 250,000 kilos (£61,000)

Unsold: a 16-year-old’s virginity and a half-eaten grilled-cheese sandwich.

Elbow Room

The world’s population reached:

  • 1 billion in 1802
  • 2 billion in 1927
  • 3 billion in 1961
  • 4 billion in 1974
  • 5 billion in 1987
  • 6 billion in 1999

According to the United Nations Population Fund, the 6 billionth baby was born at 12:02 a.m. on Oct. 12, 1999, to Fatima Nevic and her husband, Jasminko, in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

The forecast, according to the U.N.’s World Population Prospects database:

  • 2010: 6.8 billion
  • 2020: 7.6 billion
  • 2030: 8.2 billion
  • 2040: 8.7 billion
  • 2050: 9.1 billion

Better get started early on that Christmas shopping.

Mare Rides


Folk remedies to prevent nightmares:

  • Stop up the keyhole, place your shoes with the toes facing the door, then get into bed backward.
  • Put something made from steel, such as an old pair of scissors, in your bedstraw.
  • Urinate into a clean, new bottle, hang the bottle in the sun for three days, carry it — without saying a word — to a running stream, and throw it over your head into the stream.

Or take a small child free of sin, soak it in a bath for a couple of hours, then dry it on a goat or a sheep. The next night, sleep with the naked baby in your bed and you’ll never have nightmares again.

“Because He Left a Residue at Every Pole”

Incomprehensible math jokes:

Q: What is lavender and commutes?
A: An Abelian semigrape.

Q: What’s yellow, linear, normed, and complete?
A: A Bananach space.

Q: What’s the value of a contour integral around Western Europe?
A: Zero, because all the Poles are in Eastern Europe.

Q: What do you get when you cross a mountain climber with a mosquito?
A. Nothing: you can’t cross a scaler with a vector.

Q: What’s hot, chunky, and acts on a polygon?
A: Dihedral soup.

Q: What sound does a drowning analytic number theorist make?
A: “Log log log log …”

Q: What’s sour, yellow, and equivalent to the axiom of choice?
A: Zorn’s lemon.

“Mathematicians are like Frenchmen,” wrote Goethe. “Whatever you say to them they translate into their own language, and forthwith it is something entirely different.”

Nimrod, Minnesota

Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunate place names:

  • Accident, Maryland
  • Big Ugly Wilderness Area, West Virginia
  • Difficult, Tennessee
  • Effort, Pennsylvania
  • Foulness, Essex, England
  • Hell For Certain, Kentucky
  • Hole in the Ground, Oregon
  • Nothing, Arizona
  • Pity Me, County Durham, England
  • Toadsuck, Texas

Niemyje-Zabki, Poland, means “He is not cleaning his teeth.”


The most difficult word in the world to translate is ilunga, according to a 2004 survey of 1,000 linguists.

The word comes from the Tshiluba language spoken in the southeastern Congo. It means “a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time and to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time.”



Freud would have loved San Jose’s “Winchester Mystery House,” a mansion-sized emblem of its owner’s mental illness. Rifle heiress Sarah L. Winchester started construction in 1884, and never stopped. A medium had told her of a family curse, and convinced her that she would die if the construction ever ceased.

So it went on, 24 hours a day, for 38 years. There was no plan; the house was just continuously rebuilt. Worse, Sarah believed that vengeful spirits of gun victims were seeking her, so she slept in a different room each night, and the layout is full of secret passages and stairways and doors that lead nowhere.

The result shows what $5.5 million worth of insanity looks like. Altogether there are 160 rooms, including 40 bedrooms, 47 fireplaces, 1,260 windows, 17 chimneys (with evidence of two others), two ballrooms, two basements and three working elevators.

It takes 20,000 gallons to paint the place, so painting never stops. In that sense, Sarah’s weird wish lives on.



The Society for the Prevention of Calling Sleeping Car Porters “George” was a lighthearted association with a useful, if incidental, cause. Most railway porters were black, and many passengers called them all George, following the racist custom of naming slaves after their masters. (George Pullman ran the company that made the cars, so the porters were regarded as his servants.)

Strangely, the prevention society was founded not by the black porters, but by white railway employees who were actually named George. Apparently they were either annoyed by the tradition or thought that such a society would be a good joke.

People did think it was funny, or at least inoffensive. At its peak, the society had 31,000 members, including King George V of the United Kingdom, Babe Ruth (whose given name was George), and French politician Georges Clemenceau.