Posts filed under “General Knowledge”


Book cover

You have finished your summer reading list, and yet it is still summer. You have read everything your English teacher required of you. Why not read the required reading of the future?

Here is a simple tale of a young man who wields absolute power over a vast empire, whose word is law, and who therefore never gets what he wants. That is the marvelous order of the cosmos. When he discovers that he can get what he wants just by insisting on it, the world might come to an end.

This is Dr. Boli’s latest literary sensation. It may remind you of Voltaire. It may remind you of Italo Calvino. Or it may remind you of nothing else ever published. Order a copy and read the classic literature of tomorrow today.


Here is a little parlor game you can play with your friends in the comments section. What is the saddest “creative” job in the world? Dr. Boli will start. The saddest creative job in the world is writing the back-of-the-package marketing copy for the fake store brands at ALDI.

Can you top that?


For a long time our site has done without the usual array of sharing buttons. We had them years ago, but they made a nuisance of themselves. However, many readers like to push those buttons, perhaps just to see what will happen. So now if you go to an individual article, you will see an inconspicuous button at the bottom marked “Share.” If you push that, sharing buttons for various social networks will appear. These are not little tracking moles like the sharing buttons you see on many sites. We do our best to keep this site privacy-friendly, so these are static links. You can read about how they work here. Let Dr. Boli know if this feature blows up in your face, so that he will know whether he ought to keep it or scuttle it.


Our friend Father Pitt has asked us to announce that his two most popular projects, after his own site at, now have their own domain names. Henceforth Pittsburgh Cemeteries can be found at,

and Flora Pittsburghensis at

Though the old addresses will continue to work indefinitely, new articles will appear at the new addresses. Update your bookmarks and rewrite your wills.

Since old Pa Pitt is an old-fashioned gentleman, he leaves the management of his Web presence in the hands of his younger friend Dr. Boli. For this auspicious occasion, both sites have had a thorough redesign, with new site logos in Pittsburgh-flag colors. There are still some rough edges: in articles from years ago, for example, some pictures have gone missing, because they were hosted on an image server that no longer hosts them. But the new server gives the sites opportunities they have not had before, and you will already see some of the effects of that newfound freedom.

And now a curious observation. For Father Pitt’s new sites, Dr. Boli installed the same privacy-respecting statistics collector he uses on his own site. It is very simpleminded: it tells how many visitors came to the site and to each individual article, but it does not tell who those visitors were or where they came from. On the day the site first appeared on the Web, the new Pittsburgh Cemeteries recorded 17,857 visitors. It is true that the mere name “Pittsburgh Cemeteries” carries a powerful and universal appeal; but since the site had not yet been announced anywhere, that does seem like a high number. Flora Pittsburghensis had 2,446 visitors its first day—again, without any announcement. What can it mean?

It means that there are far more spammers in the world than there are readers. Most of those spammers are robots, and we are left with the conclusion that the robots already outnumber us. Will the robots rebel and exterminate the human race? Not as long as they remain hypnotized by the fascinating pictures of mausoleums and wildflowers Father Pitt feeds them. It appears that old Pa Pitt and his cameras are all that stand between us and the robot apocalypse.


Are you a born marketer? Take this quick quiz to test your instinct for marketing.

Q. For years your company has marketed a 15-ounce bottle of shampoo with a big banner on the label:

BONUS! 50% MORE! (vs. 10 oz.)

Now your accounting department has declared that, to meet the same price point, the quantity must be reduced to 12 ounces. What should the banner on the label say?

A. BONUS! 50% MORE! (vs. 8 oz.)

Q. Your laboratory has discovered that the latest batch of your Froot Festival brand noncarbonated soft drink contains up to 1,000 parts per million of a certain highly toxic chemical, a potentially lethal dose. Your vice president of marketing refuses to cancel the shipments to stores. What do you put on the label to warn potential consumers?


Q. Rats have got into your company’s warehouse and have chewed their way into hundreds of boxes of Wheat Shards brand cereal. The vice president tells you, “Just put some sticker or something on the boxes.” What should the sticker say?

A. FREE cat toy in specially chewed boxes!

Q. For years the CFO has been skimming 12% off the top whenever money comes in, and no one can stop him because he’s the CEO’s husband. You are now forced to raise your prices to compensate for his embezzlement. How do you spin that on the back of the box?

A. Help Us Find the Cure! 12% of every dollar you spend goes to research to find a cure for kleptomania.


For every answer you got right, award yourself a million billion points. For every answer you got wrong, award yourself a million billion points.


Dear Dr. Boli: Why do bankers remember the sabbath day? It’s, like, the only commandment they keep. —Sincerely, the woman who stood in front of the East End Deposit Bank branch office in Homewood, like, all day yesterday, and got nowhere.

Dear Madam: A life of incessant commandment-breaking takes a lot out of a banker. Adultery, theft, blasphemy, and all the other sins take a fair amount of effort to commit profitably. (Anyone can commit them without making a dime, but unprofitable sinning will not keep you employed at the bank very long.) Simple self-preservation dictates that a banker cannot break all the commandments every day. All bankers are therefore as pure as bleached lamb’s wool on Sundays. That is why the banks must be closed; a Sunday banker might be tempted to exercise disastrous virtues.


Our friend Father Pitt tells us that Google Photos loves to remind you of your most precious memories from years gone by. Above the endless scroll of pictures will be “Recent Highlights,” “1 year ago,” “2 years ago,” and so on.

How does Google guess which memories might be most precious to its users? We have no idea. We suspect Google has no more idea than we have. But Father Pitt notes that, out of literally hundreds of pictures he took on a day out on the town, the one Google selected was this one. It depicts the floor, wall, baseboard heating, and part of a seat of a 4200-series streetcar on the Red Line, with Father Pitt’s own bedraggled old Florsheim prominently featured in just the right spot to make a pleasing composition according to the Rule of Thirds. (He would normally have been wearing breeches tied below the knee and a pair of well-fitted hose, but the Port Authority was celebrating Modern Dress Day.) So clearly some intelligence has gone into picking, out of hundreds of pictures, the only one where the shutter accidentally fired while the photographer was adjusting the camera.


Portrait of the White Rabbit, by Teresa F. Bailey

“Portrait of the White Rabbit,” by kind permission of the artist, Teresa F. Bailey.

The Easter Bunny, technically a spring ephemeral, is a monotreme subspecies of rabbit (Cuniculus paschalis). More than one convention of mammalian taxonomists has decayed into a brawl over this classification.

The eggs laid by the Easter Bunny are almost all infertile. Only one fertilized egg is laid every year, which produces next year’s Easter Bunny.

The Easter Bunny’s full name is Bernard, but he prefers the nickname “Bunny” as being less embarrassing.

The popular Christmas song “The Little Drummer Boy” was actually written by the Easter Bunny under the pseudonym “Katherine Kennicott Davis.”

During his long annual vacation, the Easter Bunny collects stuffed plush representations of himself, a hobby he enjoys ironically.