“Miss Ann” is a disparaging expression once used in the African American community to make fun of white women who are racially condescending. The so-called “vole clock” is an astoundingly accurate method of dating archaeological discoveries by finding and analyzing nearby fossilized teeth of the vole, a burrowing rodent whose complex stages of evolution have been well mapped. As late as 1920, tug of war was an Olympic sport.

I’ve been playing a new solitaire-like Internet game involving the Wikipedia “Random articles” option. With each click, the online encyclopedia randomly sends you to one of its millions of pages. I conclude that Wiki random is genuinely random, because it seems to make no effort to be interesting: Roughly 20 percent of the pages I was sent to were about species of moths.

The object of the game is to keep doing this, rapidly, until you find a subject that you already know about, which is when the game ends; 23 tries is said to be average. I am currently at 40, and still going, but I’m not bummed out. It has taken me several hours because I’m savoring each site and diverting sideways to promising links.

In 1926, Albert Einstein invented a refrigerator. It didn’t need electricity because it operated entirely through the evaporation of chemicals. One reason we are not using this contraption or others like it today is that such refrigeration systems wound up leaking fatal gases. People died.

The Piata Romana metro station in Bucharest, Romania, located in a central urban hub, was built as an add-on to an existing metro system, despite geological impediments. As a result, the platforms are only four feet wide, so waiting for a train at rush hour can be precarious.

(Illustration by Eric Shansby)

In opposing Social Security or any form of welfare, Silas Strawn, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, once declared, “If this country ever votes the dole, we’ve hit the toboggan as a nation.” People were not as confused by this as you are. “Hitting the toboggan” is a once-popular expression used to describe, in metaphorical terms, a tipping-point decision resulting in an unstoppable downward slide, akin to accidentally stepping on a toboggan at the top of a snowy hill.

The most famous living Estonian architect is Tiit Trummal. There’s a moth called Apamea boopis.

“A Full and True Account of the Wonderful Mission of Earl Lavender” is a 1895 satirical novel by well-regarded Scottish poet and balladeer John Davidson. The book broadly makes fun of the theory of evolution — or possibly of critics of the theory of evolution; it isn’t entirely clear. The plot involves the exploits of a man who worships Darwinism as his deity and who has gone in search of the fittest woman on Earth to take as his wife. Literary critics could not quite decide if this book was genius, gibberish or deviancy, the last being a possibility because at several junctures, for no good reason, the title character is stripped naked and whipped by women on his tushie.

In 1908, Davidson wrote this enigmatic line: “Exempt from death is he who takes his life.” A year later, he committed suicide.

My game ended after 44 clicks when I finally hit on something I happened to know about. It was a page on the Mars rover, the space robot that landed in 2012. What I hadn’t known, or didn’t remember, was its nickname: Curiosity.

P.S.: They definitely should bring tug of war back to the Olympics.

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