Posts by Dr. Boli


Why would I add any other spices if I’ve already put in allspice?

Where do New Caledonian crows live?

How can I determine my favorite color?

What was the Enlightenment and how did I miss it?

Where did they put Düsseldorf?

Is a rondeau funnier than a sonnet?

If I adopt a Russian wolfhound, do I have to learn Russian?

Which comic-book hero didn’t have a tragic backstory?

Was James Joyce on drugs or what?

Is violating the Geneva Convention really all that bad?


On this day in 1506, the first group of Swiss Guards arrived at the Vatican. Since then there has never been a successful assassination of a pope, and yet for some reason few other world leaders have followed the example of dressing their personal bodyguard as clowns.


Practice the seven aesthetic works of mercy and make the world a safer place for persons with sensitive artistic temperaments:

  1. Turning off the television.
  2. Unplugging and removing the amplification system from a concert hall.
  3. Correcting backwards apostrophes at the beginnings of words in signs and advertisements.
  4. Reeducating practitioners of “contemporary Christian music.”
  5. Teaching writers of popular lyrics the principles of rhyme.
  6. Using a fast shutter to capture a waterfall, in defiance of the motion-blurring convention of every inspirational poster in the dentist’s office.
  7. Teaching an art student to draw.


Sir Isaac Newton, inventor of calculus, discoverer of the laws of gravitation, and world-class alchemy crank.

Our frequent correspondent Mary asks a very interesting question:

I’ve been enjoying learning about different types of cranks! Is there a word for this study?

It is a very interesting question because there does not seem to be a good answer. If you ask the Internet at large for a word for “the study of cranks,” nothing obvious comes up.

When there is no obvious term, we make one up ourselves. What would we call a “crank” in Greek? Perhaps “false prophet” would be the best equivalent in meaning. A false prophet is a ψευδόμαντις, so we might call the study of cranks pseudomantology—a word that seems to be available, since a Google search finds not a single instance of it on the Internet. It is distinctive and memorable, and it will—thanks to our correspondent—be Dr. Boli’s term for this discipline from now on.


Although bees have been manufacturing honey for millions of years, they have never developed an instinct for marketing it.

Every month, on the third Thursday, at precisely midnight, a 1948-vintage PCC car arrives at the Drake loop, though the Drake line has been out of service since 1999. It discharges one passenger and returns whence it came. The passenger then drives away in a 1948 Nash coupe, which no one can remember having seen parked there before. It is possible that the mystery might be solved if someone interrogated the passenger before he got into his Nash, but no one in Upper St. Clair wants to be that rude.

In spite of highly paid programmers and nearly four decades of refinement, every iteration of the Microsoft Windows operating system is less efficient than the previous one.

Measured as the crow flies, the distance from Akron to Cleveland is detectably longer than the distance from Cleveland to Akron. Ornithologists have not been able to explain why crows fly this way, unless they are drunk.

During the late twentieth century, thousands of previously sedentary nouns were turned into verbs by unaccountable social forces.