San Francisco Earthquake Photo, 1906

San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Photographer George Lawrence mounted a camera on a kite and flew it 2,000 feet over the ruins.

Of the city’s 400,000 residents, the quake killed 3,000 and left 225,000 homeless. For a time, Bank of America founder Amadeo Giannini met customers at a plank set across two barrels.

“An Orthographic Lament”

If an S and an I and an O and a U
With an X at the end spell Su;
And an E and a Y and an E spell I,
Pray what is a speller to do?

Then, if also an S and an I and a G
And an HED spell side,
There’s nothing much left for a speller to do
But to go and commit siouxeyesighed.

— Charles Follen Adams

Harrison Ford(s)

Hollywood’s Walk of Fame actually contains two stars marked Harrison Ford.

The first is for a silent film actor who retired in 1932.

He’s little remembered today — so far his namesake has outgrossed him by $5.6 billion.

Golden Gate Suicides

Jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and you’ll fall for four seconds and hit the water at 75 mph.

More than 1,300 people have attempted suicide in this way, and as of 2003, at least 26 have survived the jump. Many say they changed their minds in midair.


There was a young man of St. Bees
Who was stung in the arm by a wasp.
When they asked, “Does it hurt?”
He replied, “No, it doesn’t;
I’m so glad it wasn’t a hornet.”

— W.S. Gilbert


“This coffee plunges into the stomach … the mind is aroused, and ideas pour forth like the battalions of the Grand Army on the field of battle.” So wrote Balzac, who wrote for up to 15 hours a day wired on black coffee.

If anything, he was ahead of his time. Today we drink more than 400 billion cups of coffee every year, making it the world’s most popular beverage. It’s second only to oil as the world’s largest traded commodity.

So, is it safe to consume that much of anything? Well, yes and no.

Generally, one dose of caffeine is 100 mg. That’s what you’d get in one shot of espresso, 5 ounces of coffee, or 2.5 cans of soda. The lowest dose that’s ever killed someone is 32 times that — and that was delivered intravenously. Even with strong coffee, you’d have to drink 3 cups an hour for 100 hours even to come close to killing yourself.

But that’s not all that can happen. At lower doses you might develop “caffeinism,” a condition that mimics mental illnesses ranging from anxiety and bipolar disorder to schizophrenia and psychosis.

(And that’s just humans. Dogs, horses and parrots have much more trouble metabolizing caffeine, and it hits spiders harder than even LSD, marijuana, benzedrine and chloral hydrate, as you can see here.)

And, as always, there’s no accounting for craziness. Jason Allen, a student at a North Carolina community college, died after swallowing almost 90 pills — about 18 grams of pure caffeine. That’s the equivalent of about 250 cups of coffee, a gallon and a half of espresso, or 22 gallons of Mountain Dew. That’s a serious all-nighter.